The master plan for development along the eastern banks of the harbor would be overhauled to allow construction of the 44-story Wyndham Inner Harbor East Hotel, under legislation introduced at last night's City Council meeting.
The legislation, proposed by the administration of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, would scrap key provisions of the master plan for five waterfront acres.
The height restriction would be raised from a maximum of 180 feet, or roughly 18 stories, to at least 44 stories, possibly higher if the height of the Wyndham hotel is raised.
Closer to the water, height limits are lower -- about 80 feet -- under the existing plan.
Also, the number of rooms allowed in a hotel at Inner Harbor East would be increased from 350, to accommodate the 750-room Wyndham.
The Inner Harbor East development blueprint, formally known as the "Inner Harbor East Urban Renewal Plan," had been in the making more than a decade. Its designer, New York architect Stanton Eckstut, devised the award-winning plan for 20 acres between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
He envisioned a mix of office, residential, recreational and hotel uses on a much smaller scale, with plenty of open space and taller buildings set back from the harbor to preserve views and the low-slung waterfront profile.
The proposed zoning changes, expected to be the subject of public hearings in the coming weeks, represent the first of a series of measures that need City Council approval for the hotel to proceed.
The Wyndham development team, assembled by baking magnate John Paterakis Sr., seeks more than $50 million in public subsidies for the $132.6 million hotel.
Schmoke plans to seek City Council approval for about $25 million in parking revenue bonds. And nearly $22 million in bonds issued with the expectation that revenue generated by the project would cover the debt also need the approval of the council and voters in the November 1998 election.
Schmoke's February choice of the Wyndham over two proposals to build publicly subsidized hotels much closer to the expanded Baltimore Convention Center has drawn widespread criticism. His choice intensified fears that the lack of a closer convention headquarters hotel could turn the struggling convention center, expanded at a cost of $151 million, into a publicly financed failure.
By clinging to the Wyndham hotel plan, the mayor has rejected the recommendations of the staff of his economic development agency, the convention bureau, state legislators, the state treasurer, a host of business leaders, hoteliers and those who book conventions in the competitive, $83 billion-a-year meetings industry. The hotel would be one mile from the convention center.
Pub Date: 10/07/97