Seeking to improve his chances of obtaining city approval to )) build a full-fledged convention hotel downtown, Baltimore attorney Peter G.Angelos unveiled plans yesterday for a $140 million-to-$150 million project that would rise one block west of Baltimore's Convention Center.
Of the four large downtown hotels that have been proposed in recent months, Angelos' is the first that would be connected to the Convention Center, which was expanded recently at a cost of $150 million.
Clad in glass and brick to complement nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the 22-story hotel would be on two blocks bounded by Pratt, Howard, Camden and Paca streets.
The eastern half of the site would be a low-rise building containing ballrooms, an exhibit hall and other meeting spaces; the western half would contain the guest room tower; and the main entrance would be in the middle off Eutaw Street.
"This, we think, is a true convention center hotel," said Tom Marudas, an associate of Angelos, lead owner of the Orioles. "It will have 800 to 1,000 rooms that are less than a block from the Convention Center" and directly connected to it by an enclosed pedestrian walkway.
"This site provides the best opportunity to ensure the short- and long-term viability and economic prosperity of the Convention Center and the city," Marudas said.
Angelos announced this week that Hyatt Hotels Corp. had signed an agreement to operate the hotel he has proposed as a Grand Hyatt, one of five in the country. Hyatt would own 20 percent of the project while continuing to operate its 500-room hotel at 300 Light St.
Also this week, a group headed by John Paterakis Sr. of Baltimore and Stormont Trice Corp. of Atlanta announced that it had reached an agreement with Wyndham Hotel Corp. under which Wyndham would operate a $112 million, 750-room hotel planned for the Inner Harbor East renewal area, about a mile from the Convention Center.
Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC), a quasi-public agency that oversees downtown development for the city, has been working exclusively with the Paterakis group since its Inner Harbor East proposal was selected over two other bidders this year.
Within the local convention and tourism industry, the Paterakis hotel proposal has drawn sharp criticism because it is not within easy walking distance of the Convention Center and because the developers are seeking more than $40 million in tax breaks and other public subsidies to build it.
Angelos commissioned the architectural plans for his hotel and chose an operator as part of an unsolicited counterproposal he plans to make to the BDC within a few weeks.
City approval needed
He needs approval from the Schmoke administration because the city owns the land he wants to develop. If the city agrees to make the land available in time, Marudas said, construction could begin by early next year and the hotel could open two years later.
"We think the hotel that Mr. Paterakis wants to build is a good idea, and that it's going to help that end of the Inner Harbor," Marudas said. "But in terms of what is going to be best for the Convention Center, it's this facility. If the Convention Center is going to be viable, it has to have a convention hotel as close to it as possible, and this is the best possible site."
BDC officials have declined to comment on Angelos' plans until he submits a formal proposal. Industry observers speculate that only one of the two hotels is likely to be built, at least right away, because of limitations on the local market for new hotels.
Marudas cautioned that the design for Angelos' hotel, by David Habib of the Weihe Design Group in Washington, was preliminary.
He said it was developed before Hyatt joined the team and must be reviewed by hotel chain executives and city officials.
But even at this early stage, he said, it shows that it is possible to build an 800- to 1,000-room hotel that not only would have a direct link to the Convention Center, but also could fit in with Oriole Park, Camden Station and other landmarks in the Camden Yards area.
Preserving the view
Marudas said the designers have gone to great lengths to make sure that Oriole Park spectators' view of the downtown skyline would not be obstructed. He said the view could be kept unobstructed by putting the tallest part of the hotel on the far western edge of the development site, where it would not block views of landmarks such as the Bromo Seltzer or NationsBank towers.
"All of the height would be in the northwest corner of the lot, so you would have basically the same view out from the seats that you have now," Marudas said. "This is a first cut, but we think it's a very sensitive approach to developing the two blocks."
The preliminary design indicates that the hotel would have two ++ wings stepping down in height like the blue office tower at 250 W. Pratt St. It would have green roofs, brick stair towers and other features that would echo details at Oriole Park.