City panel OKs two USF&G plans for relocation

April 07, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,Sun Staff Writer

USF&G Corp. won a partial victory yesterday before the City Planning Commission, as the panel approved plans to add nearly 750 parking spaces at the insurance company's Mount Washington campus to accommodate the relocation of its headquarters from downtown.

The board approved two of USF&G's three proposals: construction of a six-story, 750-space parking garage and commons area and construction of a 70-space surface parking area near the company's main entrance off Smith Avenue.

In an effort to compromise, the commission rejected USF&G's plan to construct a 270-space parking garage and 144-room private hotel and conference center that would have been built on a lot now occupied by the empty Children's Guild building. Angry residents told the board they wanted more time to consider USF&G's proposals in yesterday's five-hour meeting.

The commission -- reponding to residents' fears that their neighborhood might be ruined by the development while assuring USF&G that it does not want to drive the company outside of the city -- approved only what the company said it needed immediately.

Still, residents felt the compromise was more like a defeat.

"We don't feel this is a compromise at all," said 29-year resident Dorothy Jewell. "USF&G got what they wanted. We're kind of sore."

More than 30 residents, most of whom spoke to the commissioners, attended the meeting. They charged that the company was moving too quickly, not listening to their concerns for preserving the character of the community and disregarding the effect of traffic on the streets.

USF&G countered that it has had more than a dozen meetings with Mount Washington neighborhood leaders and has revised its plans several times in response to the community's needs.

"We can't afford as a corporation to wait," said Gary Reysner, vice president of administration. "We need to make a decision whether to invest millions into Mount Washington."

Roughly 1,260 USF&G employees work at the Mount Washington campus, which straddles the city and Baltimore County line. The relocation from downtown, announced in January, would add 800 more employees by 1997.

The new projects are expected to create necessary infrastructure and amenities within the company-owned campus.

The company's proposals are scheduled to go before the City Council's Land Use Committee Tuesday.

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