Angelos revives hotel offer Project would be next to Convention Center

April 02, 1997|By Gary Gately and Kevin L. McQuaid | Gary Gately and Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

In a move that would allay widespread concern about lack of a convention headquarters hotel, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos has told city leaders that he plans to propose building Baltimore's biggest hotel on land next to the Convention Center.

Sources confirmed yesterday that Angelos sent a letter of intent Thursday to Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, in which he promised a "definitive proposal" within a month to build a 900- to 1,200-room hotel just north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Word of Angelos' plan comes less than six months after he backed off from preliminary plans to build across from the newly expanded Baltimore Convention Center.

In October, Angelos sent the BDC a letter of intent to build on the site, in response to a city request for proposals for a new hotel primarily to increase business at the $151 million Convention Center. He withdrew it, though, because he was disappointed with design renderings and over concern that the site was too small.

But last week's letter read: "We are now of the opinion that our initial aesthetic and architecture concerns can, in fact, be resolved" and that the potential hotel could succeed economically.

Industry estimates put the potential cost of such a hotel at $204 million.

"He envisions a first-class hotel by definition," said a source close to Angelos, who asked not to be identified.

"It would have all the amenities associated with a four-star hotel project, meeting space, ballrooms, restaurants, everything. At this point, he's very serious."

Carroll R. Armstrong, president of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, welcomed the news.

"Now we're talking about a headquarters hotel that's different from anything else we've been talking about, and this will allow us to be a major contender on the East Coast for the quality business and maximize the Convention Center expansion," he said.

City-owned sites

Angelos has hired a Washington architectural firm, the Weigh Partnership, to design the hotel for two city-owned sites bounded by Pratt, Howard, Camden and Russell streets.

After analyzing three proposals for a new hotel to serve the center, the BDC board granted 90-day negotiating rights last month to a team led by H&S Bakery Inc. owner John Paterakis Sr. for a 27-story hotel at Inner Harbor East, roughly a mile from the Convention Center.

But Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, several BDC board members and staff, city consultants and meeting planners lamented that the city didn't receive an offer to put a hotel close to the Convention Center. The closest proposal, a 44-story Westin Hotel at 300 E. Pratt St., across from the Inner Harbor, was about four blocks away.

At the same time, the mayor, the BDC's chairman and the Legg Mason Realty Group Inc., a city consultant, said they favored the location Angelos is proposing -- the so-called 6A site near Oriole Park.

Schmoke said yesterday that he considered the Angelos bid to be "very, very preliminary" and that key questions remained unanswered.

He would not speculate on the possibility of public subsidies for a second hotel. If Angelos did propose one, it would have no bearing on the city's approval of Paterakis' $112.2 million project.

Angelos, who set up a group last week called 6A Project Ltd. Partnership, would develop the hotel, according to the letter to the BDC.

BDC officials reacted cautiously to Angelos' proposal.

"We've made a selection. We may not all agree on that selection, but we've made a selection and we're negotiating with them now," BDC board Chairman Roger C. Lipitz said. "How could we put a hotel that we've stated we're going to support in jeopardy? I just don't know how we could do that."

Lipitz, who said he has almost no details of Angelos' offer, also questioned whether Angelos' hotel would benefit all of downtown, because its location could hurt attractions other than the Convention Center.

Visitor surge expected

According to the Legg Mason hotel study done for the city, only 50 percent of any new hotel's occupancy would come from the Convention Center. The other 50 percent would stem from business travelers, tourists and nonconvention center meetings.

The need for a convention headquarters hotel -- typically connected to or within a few blocks of large convention centers -- has moved to the forefront amid doubts about whether the center's expansion would ever deliver its promised payoff: direct convention-related spending totaling $340 million a year, generating $30 million in annual city and state tax revenues, about 8,000 jobs and other downtown development.

Schmoke said he expects a surge in convention bookings and leisure travel accompanying more than a half-billion dollars' worth of new attractions to enable the city to sustain two major hotels adding as many as 2,000 rooms.

"I don't think it is an either-or proposition," the mayor said. "I think the only question with two hotels is the timing, because the business is there."

Analysts, including those commissioned by the city specifically to prepare for the hotel review, say that's an unrealistic assumption. They say Baltimore could sustain only one major hotel, with perhaps 1,000 rooms, in the next decade.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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