Rooms with a view Inner Harbor: Proposed 800-room hotel and retail complex would fill a need.

September 26, 1996

NATIONWIDE RETAIL developer David Cordish has given a resounding vote of confidence to his hometown by proposing to build a new 27-story Inner Harbor hotel and retail complex costing $114 million without asking for a penny in outright subsidies.

The proposed 800-room hotel, which he says could later be expanded to 1,200 rooms, would be Baltimore's biggest and the first major one to open downtown since 1988.

The proposal is one of the submissions being considered by the state Department of General Services, which wants to better exploit the parcel that now accommodates the Lockwood Building of Baltimore City Community College at Pratt Street and Market Place. State officials cannot identify the other proposals under provisions of Maryland's procurement law.

This creates a peculiar situation, where the public knows of one proposal but does not even know the number of rival bidders. There is no question, though, that the 2.8-acre site just one block from the harbor's edge -- and within a stone's throw from both the recently completed Columbus Center and the Port Discovery children's complex scheduled to open in 1998 -- is lucrative. The state realized that. It told developers only that their proposals must "maximize the revenue to BCCC through a long-term income stream from the commercial development of the site," be consistent with city strategic development plans and increase the parking capacity of the site to 500 spaces.

The Cordish proposal comes at a time when Baltimore Development Corp. has a Legg Mason consultant studying the city's future hotel needs. One reason for that study is that the local stakeholders in hotel and convention industries seldom seem to agree on anything.

Some hotel managers insist that the city does not need any more rooms, while Carroll Armstrong, president of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, maintains that business at Baltimore's newly expanded Convention Center cannot be optimized unless a 1,200-room "headquarters hotel" containing flexible meeting and catering spaces is built next door.

It is unlikely that the BDC study, which will be released shortly, is going to end these disagreements. But it should clear the air and give the city's development officials a better understanding of what they should shoot for.

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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