Rawlings bill could kill harbor hotel Measure would cut subsidies to facility larger than 350 rooms

Issue moves to Annapolis

$132 million Wyndham would not be feasible, the developers say

September 23, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A state lawmaker who opposes the Wyndham Inner Harbor East Hotel has proposed a measure that the hotel's developers say would effectively kill the $132 million project.

A bill pre-filed yesterday by Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, guarantees that the battle over an Inner Harbor hotel to serve the convention trade will shift to Annapolis and be played out in next year's legislative session.

Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat, said the legislation would relieve the state of its obligation to pay $3.7 million in annual subsidies for the Baltimore Convention Center if the City Council approves a Wyndham hotel larger than 350 rooms.

"It would effectively kill the proposal," said Gerard Evans, a spokesman for Baltimore baking magnate John Paterakis Sr., the leader of a team that has proposed a 750-room hotel.

Evans said the project was planned based on cost estimates for a 45-story, 750-room hotel and that a 350-room hotel "would not be feasible" at the site south of Little Italy.

Evans said Paterakis was out of town last night and could not be reached, but that he was briefed on Rawlings' bill Friday and has no plans to drop the project.

"We hope to work within the legislative process and convince Delegate Rawlings to change his mind about the bill," Evans said.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee will hold a public briefing on the issue at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Room 100 of the Senate Office Building in Annapolis.

Rawlings said that building a 750-room hotel at the Wyndham site could turn the struggling convention center, expanded at a cost to taxpayers of $151 million, into a failure.

He said last night that he filed the bill in response to legislators' concerns about a return on the public investment in the convention center.

"It's aimed at putting a modest hotel at that site, continuing the development of those communities east of the Inner Harbor, addressing the community's concerns and literally making it clear the legislature is determined to protect the taxpayers' investment in the convention center," Rawlings said.

The Wyndham site won the support of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in February. But his choice of the Wyndham, over two other proposals to build publicly subsidized hotels much closer to the convention center, drew widespread criticism.

In continuing to support the site, Schmoke has rejected recommendations of the staff of his economic development agency, the convention bureau, state legislators, the state treasurer, business leaders, hoteliers and those who book conventions in the competitive, $83 billion-a-year meetings industry. But the hotel still needs City Council approval for $25 million in parking revenue bonds and for an overhaul of the Inner Harbor East master plan.

Rawlings said his bill is aimed at reaching a compromise between proponents of the Wyndham site and critics, who say its one-mile distance from the convention center puts it too far away to serve as a "headquarters hotel" for conventioneers.

"The city needs a convention center headquarters hotel," he said. "The Wyndham is not a convention center headquarters hotel."

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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