Columbus Center toured by families of its builders

January 22, 1995|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

Marine biotechnologists will move into their brand-new laboratories at the Columbus Center in a few weeks, but yesterday the people who built the $160 million research and education center got to show their families what they've done.

More than 1,000 people -- most of them from Baltimore -- representing every aspect of the building trades worked on the Inner Harbor project from the start of construction in 1992 until its completion last month. More than half of them were expected for yesterday's party.

Guiding their families around the vast structure, the workers stopped to point out particular areas where they had helped to build the project that is expected to propel Baltimore to the forefront of biotechnology.

"This is a first for families," said Beneak Hargrave, whose husband, Jeff, heads the subcontracting company that installed the cabinetry and wood trim.

"I was quite impressed with his work," Mrs. Hargrave said.

"It was a great project and an opportunity to work in the city, and we didn't have any problem getting paid, which was great. I'm proud of it," Mr. Hargrave exclaimed.

When Gene and Jodie Seals, of Mount Airy, arrived, greeters handed the sign-up slip to Mr. Seals, but he said, "No, she worked here, not me."

Mrs. Seals, 28, is an office employee for Ciambro Corp., which laid the foundation.

"We drove dozens of piles into the ground, and when I left here that's all there was," Mrs. Seals said. "Last fall I was sent here to pick up some plans and, oh, my, it was a building."

Temporary housing

Most of the scientists have been housed temporarily at nearby Baltimore City Community College and will move gradually into their new quarters beginning in mid-February, said Paula A. Dozier of Columbus Center Development Inc., the private nonprofit organization that owns the center.

The audiovisual rooms for school classes also are ready, and the first students will arrive by fall, she said. The 23,000-square-foot exhibition hall, in the huge atrium roofed with Teflon-coated fiberglass, is in the final stages of construction.

Steven Stidham, 34, an electrician from Hampden, brought his wife, Paula, and son, Max, to see the building. "The atrium is unique. I'd love to have been here when they raised it," Mr. Stidham said.

Max decided that, overall, "I like it a lot . . . but I want to see the room where we're not supposed to go." Where's that? "The boiler room," he said. Mr. Stidham said he would try -- but no promises.

The Columbus Center will house the Center of Marine Biotechnology, the Science and Technology Education Center, the Center of Marine Archaeology and the Hall of Exploration.

"Gives Maryland an edge"

The project came in on time and on budget, said Robert Wyatt, of Annapolis, vice president of Barton Malow, the general contractor with Essex Construction Co.

"The science and technology building is unique, and with marine biotechnology an exploding field, it gives Maryland an edge in both teaching and high-end science," he said.

Mr. Wyatt praised the work of the subcontractors. "They gave the best cooperation and best skills of any job I've worked on. They did a spectacular job and the craftsmanship in this building is extraordinary."

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