Power Plant smokestacks will stay, company says Cordish Co.'s design changes will save structures

February 07, 1997|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

The Power Plant smokestacks, defining fixtures on the Inner Harbor skyline for decades, will remain atop the turn-of-the-century landmark after all.

The Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which had maintained that keeping the four brick-and-steel smokestacks would make its $25 million entertainment and retail project impossible, said yesterday the stacks would be preserved.

The turnabout came primarily as a result of design changes reconfiguring the space in the three-building complex on Pier 4, Cordish officials told the city's Architectural Review Board yesterday.

"We never really wanted to take the stacks out; we just wanted to make the project work," said Joe Weinberg, Cordish Co. vice president. "They're really spectacular, and our intent is to make them a dramatic feature of the project."

Tenants slated for the center building had refused to sign leases because, under the original plans, the stacks would have sat squarely in the center of their space.

The stacks measure 17 1/2 feet in diameter at their base.

But after lengthy negotiations, Cordish officials said tenants in the center building would occupy space on either side of the 200-foot tall stacks.

Preservation of the stacks comes as welcome news to architects and preservationists, who had expressed reservations about removing them from a century-old building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also yesterday, the developer unveiled a new facade design that features an open-air arcade leading to the entrance.

The change will create a focal point highlighting the stacks, which are to be bathed in special effects created by a consultant who does lighting for Walt Disney attractions.

M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, praised the new design.

He noted that BDC had insisted that if the stacks had to be removed, they be replaced by vertical structures resembling smokestacks to simulate the look of the historic building.

Demolishing the smokestacks, which have not functioned for more than 20 years, would have cost at least $2 million, Cordish officials said yesterday, and contractors could not guarantee they could avoid damage to the building during the demolition.

The smokestacks will be stabilized, buttressed with trusses and painted, the developer said.

Last month, more than a year after the city chose Cordish to redevelop the Power Plant, the Board of Estimates approved a 75-year lease with the developer.

The first of the plant's three buildings -- the one farthest from Pratt Street -- could open as early as this summer, said David Cordish, who heads the development company. The entire project should open within two years, Cordish said.

With final approval of its lease with the city, the development company said, it plans to sign final contracts with the complex's 10 tenants within the next two weeks.

Likely occupants include Barnes & Noble Superstore, a Second City comedy club, a theme restaurant, a Sega Dreamworks virtual reality arcade, and a House of Blues or Blue Note nightclub.

The plant's reopening will bring new life to the three interconnected brick structures that have been lifeless since 1990, when Six Flags Corp. moved out after losing millions on an urban entertainment center and a nightclub.

The BDC said the project would generate 900 jobs and more than $2.3 million in annual tax revenue and $1.6 million in city tax revenue.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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