Hotel for corporate travelers considered HarborView owners have requested feasibility studies

June 17, 1998|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

The president of HarborView, the outsized condominium tower and marina on the South Baltimore waterfront, is floating a new idea for the 42-acre property: a five-star hotel for business travelers.

Richard A. Swirnow said yesterday that HarborView's owners -- HarborView Properties Development Corp. and Parkway Holdings Ltd., a Singapore-based conglomerate -- want to build a hotel.

No financial plans or drawings have been done, though Swirnow said HarborView has commissioned feasibility studies and spoken with hotel chains and potential investors.

The hotel, Swirnow said, would cater to corporate visitors, rather than tourists and conventioneers. Before going forward, HarborView would want to form a partnership with a "luxury, five-star" chain -- he mentioned the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons by name.

"The challenge is in convincing a five-star hotel company that Baltimore is big enough to sustain them," Swirnow said.

If the project were to go forward, HarborView would be one of several harbor-area hotels, including the Wyndham Inner Harbor East Hotel, a publicly subsidized development of H&S Bakery president John Paterakis Sr., and the Grand Hyatt near Oriole Park, planned by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, also with city subsidies.

HarborView's interest in joining the hotel rush surfaced at a private meeting last month between members of Fort McHenry-area merchants and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, business owners and State Sen. George W. Della Jr. said.

The mayor said through a spokesman last night that HarborView, which benefited from a $2 million tax break last year for its condos, should not expect government help on this project.

"It's news to me," said Schmoke, adding that he left the May meeting before Swirnow mentioned a hotel. "And even if he has plans to build a hotel, the city is not going subsidize, either directly or indirectly, another hotel."

The hotel idea is the latest in a series of proposals offered by HarborView, which has faced financial troubles ever since it opened a 27-story condominium tower in 1993. Fewer than a quarter of the tower's 254 units have been sold, and Parkway Holding announced at one point in 1996 that it would abandon development plans and sell the site.

But Swirnow said yesterday that the Baltimore economy has turned around. HarborView will build a nursing home across Key Highway from its tower, and Swirnow says a second tower of apartments (HarborView has zoning approval to build as many as six towers) is under consideration.

HarborView's expansion would be part of a surge of commercial development along once-industrial Key Highway -- including expansion of the Museum of Industry and the opening of the Globe Brewery pub and the Little Havana restaurant and bar nearby.

But as the Key Highway development spreads, residents from Locust Point to Federal Hill have criticized the new building for creating noise, public safety and parking problems. Neighborhood groups could pose a significant obstacle to any harbor hotel, though community leaders reacted cautiously yesterday.

"HarborView has a record of talking about big projects that don't materialize," said Jim Keat, past president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. "But do we object to a hotel in principle? No."

"A big issue will be the size," said Jack Williams, president of the Riverside Action Group. "If a hotel blocks our view like HarborView [tower] does, it will be hard to support."

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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