City OKs razing block to build garage Facility approved as incentive to keep Alex. Brown downtown

September 12, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

It won't have the scale or drama of the implosion of the high-rise public housing towers in East and West Baltimore, but another significant demolition project soon will take place in the city.

Work is scheduled to begin next month on tearing down several downtown buildings to make way for a parking garage across the street from the new headquarters of Alex. Brown Inc. at a 30-story high-rise on Commerce Place. The city agreed to construct the facility as an incentive to keep the venerable investment company -- and its hundreds of high-paying jobs -- from moving to the suburbs.

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved a $986,335 contract with Potts & Callahan Inc. to raze and clear a square-block area south of City Hall bounded by Fayette, Baltimore and Holliday streets and Guilford Ave.

Among the structures scheduled for demolition are a city-owned building that once housed Health Department offices and several former businesses that the city acquired by condemnation this year, including the Oasis, a strip bar on The Block.

"We hope to have the site cleared by the end of the year," Public Works Director George G. Balog said after yesterday's board meeting.

Unlike the Lafayette Courts and Lexington Terrace public housing projects, which were demolished by strategically placed explosives that caused the buildings to dramatically collapse in a matter of seconds, the downtown buildings will be dismantled by bulldozing and other mechanical means, starting with the Baltimore Street properties, Balog said.

Removal of asbestos and lead from the city building in the 300 block of E. Fayette St. is nearing completion, and the city will begin soliciting bids for construction of the garage in about a month, Balog said.

The garage will have spaces for 500 cars, with shops on the ground level, and will cost between $8 million and $9 million, Balog said. Construction is slated to be completed in fall 1997, he said.

Potts & Callahan's bid was the second-lowest of five the city received for the demolition work. Bensky Construction Co. bid $875,000 -- $111,335 less than Potts & Callahan -- but board members questioned whether Bensky would do at least 50 percent of the work itself, a requirement for prime contractors of city business.

Bensky representatives acknowledged that the company planned to subcontract the actual demolition work, but argued that clearing and grading the site would make up more than half the required work.

Three other firms bid more than $1.1 million for the contract.

Yesterday's meeting marked the first time this century that a designated representative sat in for the mayor on the five-member panel that reviews all city contracts, under a provision of the revised charter that took effect July 1. Finance Director William R. Brown Jr. took the place of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who was at a Washington news conference.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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