Alternative offered for Wyndham Design: A local architect, troubled by the controversial hotel proposal, developed another proposal for the waterfront property.

Urban Landscape

October 23, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

JUST WHEN the controversial Wyndham Hotel planned for Baltimore's harbor-front is about to come up for a key vote before the city's Planning Commission, a local architect has proposed an alternative design that would cut its height in half.

Paul J. Marks, a Baltimore resident and partner of Marks, Thomas & Associates in Baltimore, has prepared a concept sketch that shows a waterfront hotel with two towers of guest rooms, each rising about 25 stories, rather than one tower rising 45 to 50 stories in the air, as called for in the Wyndham plan.

Each guest room tower in Marks' proposal would have about 20 levels, and the majority of the rooms would have waterfront views. The towers would rise from a four-story base that would occupy three city blocks, rather than a nine-story base occupying two city blocks, as proposed by Wyndham.

Marks said he is not working for the Wyndham team, which is headed by Baltimore businessman John Paterakis, and has not shared his concept with team members. He said he sketched the twin-tower plan "to indicate that there are other options besides a behemoth Atlanta-style monstrosity."

Marks explained that he attended a presentation by the hotel developers several months ago and was troubled that they want to violate the Inner Harbor East plan, which stipulates that no building within the eight-block renewal area can be more than 18 stories high.

He noted that the original master plan for the Inner Harbor East area, by Stan Eckstut, was developed over a long period and had the full backing of city officials, landowners and the residents of East Baltimore. He said he believes Wyndham's 45- to 50-story building at the water's edge will turn the Inner Harbor into the Inner Puddle.

"It's a very large slab that's going to cast a long shadow and be a looming presence that's going to change the scale and feel of the Inner Harbor," he warned.

With a 500-foot-tall building at its edge, the harbor basin "is going to feel like a mud puddle instead of a connection to the harbor and the bay," he continued. "The hotel is going to overwhelm it."

As a city taxpayer, Marks said, he is also irked that public funds will be used to tear up some of the streets and walkways that have just been built in the Inner Harbor East area so the $132.6 million hotel can take shape.

City Council members and others have estimated that the cost of tearing up recently completed infrastructure and rebuilding it for the hotel could be as high as $10 million. That would be in addition to more than $50 million in loans and other public assistance that the city has offered the development team.

Marks said he isn't pretending to have solved every issue with his sketch. He said he tried to show there may be a way to address public concerns about the proposed height and bulk of the Wyndham hotel if designers would explore alternative concepts.

A twin-tower hotel on the waterfront, he said, could be similar to the Omni hotel in Charles Center, which also has two towers rising from a common base. If the base of the Inner Harbor East hotel were two structures on separate blocks, conforming to the Eckstut master plan and joined by pedestrian sky bridges, streets wouldn't have to be torn up so much, he added.

Before construction may begin, the City Council must pass legislation that would enable the development team to reconfigure certain parcels and exceed the 180-foot height limit. The pending legislation permits a hotel up to 505 feet tall -- or about 50 stories.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation at 7 p.m. Monday, on the eighth floor of 417 E. Fayette St.

AIA design awards

Local architects will be honored tomorrow during the 1997 Design Awards Program sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The program starts at 6: 30 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center, with former Orioles vice president and staff architect Janet Marie Smith as guest speaker.

Design award winners were: Murphy & Dittenhafer, for an artisan center in Wheeling, W. Va.; Anshen & Allen Architects, for its master plan for Sinai Hospital; and Michael Shively, for a sanctuary and support facility in Harrisburg, Pa.

Honorable mention winners were: Murphy & Dittenhafer, for an unbuilt courtyard at Loyola College and an education center in York, Pa.; Marks, Thomas & Associates, for the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson; Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick, for a preservation project in Harpers Ferry, W. Va.; and Design Collective for the Sinai Wellbridge Health and Fitness Center in Owings Mills.

Ticket information: 410-625-2585.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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