Cordish proposal rejected by school College body's power to rule on Market Place garage is disputed

Urban development

October 11, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

After months of deliberation, trustees of Baltimore City Community College have rejected the Cordish Co.'s $18.5 million proposal to construct a garage and retail center on state-owned land near the Inner Harbor.

But the developers, who proposed to connect the garage and shops to a $30 million entertainment center they are building inside the Pier 4 Power Plant, say trustees of the state-run college have no legal authority to reject their plan.

The developers say they are still negotiating with another state agency, the Department of General Services, and remain optimistic they will be able to lease the land and carry out their project.

An Oct. 8 letter from college board Chairman Roger Lyons is "of no legal effect whatsoever," Cordish Vice President Joseph Weinberg said. "Our exclusive negotiating priority was awarded by the state of Maryland, General Services Administration, Secretary Gene Lynch, and continues in full force and effect.

"Negotiations with the state are progressing and we are extremely optimistic they will be concluded successfully, thereby insuring that the city of Baltimore and Inner Harbor area will be enhanced with much-needed parking."

The land in question, called the "Lockwood site," is a 2.8-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Pratt Street and Market Place. It contains 240 parking spaces and the college's two-story William V. Lockwood Building, which is still in use by the college but slated for demolition to make way for new development.

Last year the Department of General Services, working with the college, sought proposals from groups interested in developing the Lockwood site and selected Cordish Co. to receive exclusive negotiating rights.

Developer David Cordish's original plan called for construction of a 34-story, $139.1 million hotel, retail and office complex at Pratt Street and Market Place.

When the project was not selected by the Baltimore Development Corp. to receive funding assistance as the city's preferred "convention-oriented hotel," Cordish Co. proposed to develop the Lockwood lot with an $18.5 million, six-level garage that would contain parking for about 800 cars and 150,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The garage would be designed to support a future office or hotel tower or both -- to be constructed when market conditions permitted.

But at a meeting Tuesday, college trustees voted to not accept David Cordish's most recent proposal and to consider other ideas for the land.

College President James D. Tschechtelin said after the meeting that the trustees studied the proposal carefully and concluded that the financial return promised by the developer was not sufficient to meet the college's needs.

Tschechtelin explained that the college now receives about $772,000 from leasing the 240-space lot and could receive $1.1 million a year if it razed the Lockwood building and enlarged the lot to provide space to park 355 cars.

He said the trustees were concerned that the Cordish proposal -- which called for the college to receive an annual base rent from garage receipts -- would not generate significantly more revenue for the college than it receives now.

Also, because income from the site helps pay faculty members' salaries and other operating costs, the trustees want to keep risk at a minimum in any development scenario, Tschechtelin added.

"The board felt this is a legacy decision," he said. "Its consequences are critical to BCCC's future. The college simply cannot face the prospect of students having to pay higher tuition if a venture does not work out."

Steve Cassard, assistant secretary for real estate in the Department of General Services, said he could not respond directly to Weinberg's comments about the college's legal authority. Cassard said representatives from his agency intend to meet soon with college officials to determine the next course of action on the Lockwood site.

Tschechtelin said the trustees still want to move ahead with development of the property and will be receptive to new proposals either from the Cordish team or others.

"We're going to listen to people," he said. "Part of what the board wants to do it test the waters to see what people are interested in doing."

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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