Peter G. Angelos, bent on restoring Charles Center to the prominence it held decades ago, is hoping to rip up the plaza behind his 100 N. Charles St. skyscraper and replace it with a parking lot.
"The idea is to create parking for patrons of nearby shops, offices and guests of area hotels," said Wayne R. Gioioso Jr., president of Artemis Management & Development Inc., Angelos' real estate company.
Angelos' plan to construct a surface lot with as many as 200 spaces in the plaza between the 22-story tower and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s 39 W. Lexington St. headquarters would supply much-needed parking at a time when city officials are struggling to add spaces downtown.
A September 1997 report from the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., a public-private economic development agency, said downtown faces a shortage of more than 3,600 parking spots.
But Angelos' plan may face opposition from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and other city agencies.
"When I first heard about it, I knew it would be controversial," Schmoke said, through a spokesman. "So I asked [Public Works Director George] Balog to refer the matter to our interagency development group. The report I received from the group indicates most of the city agencies are strongly opposed to the idea, and recommended that we pursue other alternatives to increase parking."
Schmoke has pledged to study the parking lot issue further, however.
The plan to add parking represents the latest move by Angelos to improve the area surrounding his One Charles Center office tower, where the Orioles' chairman is investing $17 million.
One Charles Center, a 320,000-square-foot project and the spark for the revitalization of the 33-acre Charles Center four decades ago, contains just 140 parking spaces in an underground garage.
Angelos this month proposed a security force composed of off-duty city police officers to patrol the area, which has been a magnet for the homeless. The parking lot plan, in fact, stems in part from Angelos' frustration with the homeless, sources familiar with the plan said.
Gioioso declined to comment, other than to say the plaza is "under utilized."
"It's just not an attractive setting," Gioioso said. "At the time it was developed, it was a wonderful urban park, but it's not being used that way today."
Gioioso added that the parking lot, which could be completed in 10 months, would be "temporary." He declined to define "temporary," however.
As part of the revitalization plan, Angelos also persuaded the city to demolish part of the former Hamburgers building, which he bought from BGE for roughly $1 million, claiming it obstructed light and traffic flow.
And last November, Angelos and other key property owners formed a new group to focus attention on reviving the city's central business district.
If Schmoke and other agency heads are skeptical of the plan, however, Balog appears supportive. "We're tossing the plan around," Balog said. "Our observation is the plaza isn't being fully utilized."
Balog added that a recently completed engineering study said that parking would be feasible on the plaza, which was constructed above the Downunder Garage.
Under a tentative plan, the city would construct the lot on the plaza and lease it to Angelos or a group of property owners, who would operate the parking facility, Balog said. Construction would cost roughly $500,000.
Not all of the area's property owners endorsed about the proposal, however. BGE declined to comment on the plan, calling it "premature," while other nearby building managers are taking a cautious approach.
"There's a need for more parking downtown, and at the same time there's an obvious need for open space," said Donald Manekin, a senior vice president of the Manekin Corp., which manages the 12-story One Center Plaza, at 120 W. Fayette St. "I think we need to balance the two."
Pub Date: 3/20/98