Planners to vote on Angelos' hotel BDC likely to OK tower with link to Convention Center

May save Wyndham

Officials threatened to block approval of Harbor East project

January 22, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Peter G. Angelos' proposed downtown convention hotel tower is up for a vote by key city economic planners today in a move that could mean the construction of both that hotel and the controversial 750-room Wyndham hotel a mile away.

While the outcome of the vote is uncertain, sources say that board members of Baltimore Development Corp., a quasi-public agency that oversees downtown development for the city, are poised to approve Angelos' 850-room Grand Hyatt Hotel to be linked directly to the Convention Center.

If both are built, the number of rooms in downtown Baltimore would jump by more than a third. The impetus for the construction is the newly expanded Convention Center, whose officials say they cannot book large conventions because of limited hotel space.

BDC staffers are recommending that the board accept the Grand Hyatt, a $150 million hotel proposed by the Orioles owner and attorney, instead of permitting a parking lot on the city-owned parcel bounded by Pratt, Howard, Camden and Paca streets.

If the Grand Hyatt is approved, it would do much to allay the concerns of elected officials who are trying to bottle up the approval of the city's other proposed downtown hotel, the Wyndham at Inner Harbor East.

The 750-room Wyndham, touted early in the process as the city's convention hotel, was criticized because it would be located nearly a mile away from the Convention Center. Detractors said that it would be too far from the newly expanded Convention Center to be a success.

Consequently, several elected officials, including council members and State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the powerful head of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the city must designate a hotel closer to the Convention Center or risk failure or delay of the Wyndham.

The board's vote today is expected to follow the BDC's staff recommendation, due in large part because the mayor wants two new hotels.

Last year, the board overturned BDC's staff recommendation that the city build a hotel across from Harborplace and instead chose the Wyndham at Inner Harbor East.

Roger C. Lipitz, BDC board chairman and vice president of Genesis Healthcare, said that the board will consider two main questions: One, which will bring the city more money in the long run: the parking lot, which requires little investment, or the hotel, which requires a significant investment?

Two, if the Grand Hyatt is chosen, what would its impact be on the hotel market?

"I don't like to predict what the board will do," Lipitz said. "It is a very complicated transaction."

Meanwhile, the city's other proposed hotel, the $132 million Wyndham, is getting closer to becoming a reality as the Schmoke administration works out its public financing package that must be approved by the City Council.

Baking magnate John Paterakis Sr., who would build the Wyndham, wants $40 million to $50 million in public subsidies.

The Schmoke administration wants to fund part of the Wyndham with $25 million in tax credits over the next 25 years. A profit-sharing agreement between developers and the city is also in the works, but under the agreement, the city would not see any money until at least five years after the hotel is built.

The Schmoke administration has not come up with the other $20 million or so that would complete the public financing package that Paterakis wants.

In one preliminary plan, the administration wanted to pay for part of the construction with parking revenue bonds but was rebuffed by the City Council, which was skittish about putting so much public money into the project.

During the past few months, many key members of the City Council have warned Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that they would bottle up approval of the Wyndham if construction needed to be subsidized with city loans, grants or parking revenue bonds.

The city's chief negotiator on the hotel project, BDC President M. J. "Jay" Brodie, said that on Tuesday the hotel developers submitted a proposal that would have private contractors build the hotel's garage.

Brodie declined to elaborate on the details yesterday.

City Councilman Martin O'Malley, who heads the Taxation and Finance Committee that is in charge of scrutinizing the mayor's financing deal, is cautiously happy about the recent hotel developments.

"I think we have been able to assert ourselves pretty well and have a role in fashioning a better deal," O'Malley said.

Designed with glass and brick to complement nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the 22-story Grand Hyatt hotel would be linked by an enclosed walkway to the Convention Center.

The eastern half of the site would be a low-rise building containing ballrooms, an exhibit hall and other meeting spaces; the western half would contain the guest room tower; and the main entrance would be in the middle off Eutaw Street.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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