New proposal for hotel a ploy, some believe

March 11, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

When a New York developer abruptly declared last week that he would build a large hotel in downtown Baltimore with no public money, some city officials expressed doubt that it could be done.

But as the City Council begins public hearings today on whether to approve $25 million in tax breaks to construct the long-debated, controversial Wyndham hotel, Harvey Schulweis' bid raises an important question:

If a developer can shoulder the entire cost of building a large downtown hotel, why is the city willing to plunk down millions in grants and loans and forgo up to $45 million in tax breaks for both the proposed Wyndham and Grand Hyatt hotels?

For their part, city leaders say that Schulweis has no real intention of building a hotel. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has hinted that Schulweis only wants to keep the council from approving subsidies for the 750-room Wyndham.

"I just question the timing" of the announcement of the Schulweis proposal, Schmoke said.

City officials are skeptical because Schulweis is offering few details of his hotel development.

Some fear that Schulweis, whose earlier proposal to build an 800-room Westin hotel with public subsidies was rejected by the mayor, wants to prevent the construction of one of the other hotels.

Some council members theorize that Schulweis wants the council to quash one of the other hotel deals and then commit to his proposal. At that point, they speculate that he will demand public money.

Schulweis wants to construct a 600-room Westin across from the Inner Harbor on Pratt Street. Baking mogul John Paterakis Sr., is developing the 750-room Wyndham east of the Inner Harbor. Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos wants to build the 850-room Grand Hyatt next to the Convention Center.

The council hearing will be at 5 p.m. in the council chambers.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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