NOW THAT TWO competing bids are on the table for a publicly subsidized convention headquarters hotel in downtown Baltimore, selecting the winning site should be easy: Just walk from the Convention Center in 90-degree heat to the proposed spot next door -- or one mile farther to the rival Inner Harbor East location. All this takes is time, stamina, a pair of sturdy walking shoes and good cheer.
On the way back -- during the city's long afternoon rush-hour -- try hailing a cab (as a conventioneer would do) and sit while it creeps along in snail-paced traffic.
Then repeat that exercise when the Orioles are playing. Or when it is raining. Or when it is 30 degrees and windy.
The point is this: A hotel would be a nice addition to bakery magnate John Paterakis' Inner Harbor East development. But that site is too far and inconvenient for a hotel that is needed to bolster lagging bookings of the Convention Center, which was recently expanded at a cost to taxpayers of $151 million.
If Baltimore is to maximize its convention potential, this city needs a headquarters hotel as close to the Convention Center as possible. Orioles owner Peter Angelos has now formally proposed building such a hotel.
Mr. Angelos' bid, in which the prestigious Hyatt hotel chain has a large equity stake, was unsolicited. The Baltimore Development Corp. is now expected to advertise the city-owned lots next to the Convention Center for other proposals. That's fine. The goal, however, should be to build a large convention hotel on that site as soon as possible.
As Carroll Armstrong, who runs the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, put it: "You want to be in major leagues? Quality businesses will not get on a shuttle bus for 30 minutes. Their people want to roll out of bed and do business."
A number of powerful officials who control the purse strings in Annapolis -- ranging from state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon to House Appropriations Committee chairman Howard P. Rawlings, recognize this, too.
"As the state's treasurer," Mr. Dixon wrote Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, "I have a moral imperative to protect the state's investment, the taxpayers' investment in the Convention Center. The state has] more than $100 million sunk in the expansion alone, and I want to see it be successful, and having a convention hotel across the street, connected by covered walkway, is what we need to do that."
The Schmoke administration ought to listen.
! Pub Date: 6/25/97