State OKs plan for cruise ship terminal

January 12, 1995|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

With the city of Baltimore promising to provide as much as $8.8 million in road and utility work, the state approved a plan yesterday to purchase a site adjacent to the old AlliedSignal Inc. chrome works plant for a passenger cruise ship terminal.

The state Board of Public Works approved an agreement to buy a 3.1-acre parcel for $3 million before August 1997, provided financing can be secured for the terminal's construction. The project is expected to cost between $40 million and $50 million, including the value of the city's infrastructure work, according to the Maryland Port Administration (MPA).

The MPA, which requested the funds to buy the site, and city officials have touted the cruise ship terminal as an economic development project. According to one study, the terminal would create 173 jobs and generate more than $12 million in annual revenue and $494,000 in taxes. The site is located in a newly designated federal Empowerment Zone, which would provide tax breaks for businesses locating there.

But State Treasurer Lucille Maurer, one of three members on the Board of Public Works, questioned yesterday whether the state could justify spending $40 million on the facility, given the revenue projections.

With money for the terminal competing with all other state transportation projects, members of the General Assembly are likely to be equally skeptical.

"If this weren't just an option, I don't know whether you would have my vote or not," Ms. Maurer said. Gov. William Donald Schaefer and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, the other two members on the board, also voted to approve the agreement.

The deal approved yesterday provides the MPA with time to secure construction funds from a private partner, the legislature or a combination of the two to develop the site. The state agency is not seeking construction money from the current General Assembly.

"We'll have ample time to present this to the legislature," said G. Gregory Russell, deputy director of the MPA, which operates the state's public marine terminals.

The terminal site has been mentioned as an ideal location for a hotel that could house a casino if the state enacts legislation that permits casino gambling. The General Assembly is likely to confront that issue this year.

Port officials said they hope the modern terminal would lure more cruise lines to Baltimore. Seventeen cruise ships dock at each year at the Dundalk Marine Terminal, a working cargo facility located far from the heart of the city's business district.

So far, the proposal to build a passenger terminal has not attracted any commitment for new cruise ship service, Michael P. Angelos, executive director of the MPA told the board yesterday.

The terminal site -- bound by Caroline, Wills and Block streets and the Patapsco River -- is adjacent to the AlliedSignal chrome works plant, which was shut down in 1985 and has been undergoing a $90 million cleanup effort.

The parcel, which was more than double the 1.2 acres originally considered by the state, was appraised at more than $6 million. But Allied officials said yesterday they were willing to sell the site for half that amount.

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