Consultants to study need for fairgrounds expansion Firm also to examine Dark Head Cove idea

June 26, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Hoping to lure more tourists and conventioneers to Baltimore County, local officials plan to hire a Washington-based consulting firm to study the need for exhibition space at Maryland State Fairgrounds and at a proposed waterfront development in Middle River.

The four-month study will help county officials determine which business activities can best revitalize the southeast area and whether the county should invest in a fairgrounds expansion, county Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon said yesterday. The County Council is scheduled to award the $49,724 contract to Economics Research Associates on Monday. The firm is to study the supply of Baltimore-area exhibition facilities, assess the demand for additional facilities and recommend ways to accommodate any new demand.

County officials took pains to explain that any new facilities would not compete with the Baltimore Convention Center, which is in the midst of a $150 million expansion to double its size to 300,000 square feet.

The impetus for the study came last fall, when state fairgrounds operators met with county leaders to discuss a proposed expansion in Timonium. The operators proposed a $4 million to $5 million project that would link two existing buildings, creating a 270,000-square-foot complex near the light rail entrance at the fairgrounds' northern end. The expansion would lure more large exhibitions to the fairgrounds, operators said. But it might displace some small events, creating a need for another convention hall in the county.

County officials said one possibility would be to build an exhibition center for small shows as part of a proposed development on 45 acres owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. on Dark Head Cove, a lagoon at the head of Middle River.

Officials say the Dark Head Cove project, a key to revitalizing southeast Baltimore County, would help attract boaters and tourists to the county's waterfront. One proposal is for a mini-Harborplace with restaurants, a fish market, shops and a hotel.

The consultant's study will help county officials determine the type of activities most suitable for the Eastside project, Hannon said.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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