2 downtown hotels win OKs from ARB Westin gets new look

Inner Harbor East project gets new name


August 08, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Two hotel projects planned for the Inner Harbor have received the blessing of the city's Architectural Review Board, despite suggestions for minor changes to the upscale waterfront lodging projects.

Developers of one of the projects, a 13-story hotel with moderately priced rooms scheduled to open in Inner Harbor East in fall 1999, have switched brands and adopted the Courtyard by Marriott flag. The 207-room hotel had originally been planned as a Wyndham Garden project.

But perhaps the more notable change presented to the board on Thursday came from the designer of the $124 million Westin, planned for the former News American site at 300 E. Pratt St.

Brennan Beer Gorman, the New York firm designing the 600-room luxury hotel, formally presented a redesigned project that features a 28-story tower and 10 floors of rooms fronting Pratt Street.

The architects also rid the hotel design of a glass skin that had covered one side of the building fronting the harbor. The glass was replaced by the masonry planned for the project's other walls.

"The board had a strong favorable reaction," M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency that oversees the ARB, said yesterday. "And as a result, the Westin was approved subject to a couple of refinements."

The architects' changes came in response to ARB concerns that the Westin's original design was hulking and looked more like an office skyscraper than a hotel.

The board's only concern with the revamped Westin design centered on the tower's slanting top, reminiscent of the 30-story Alex. Brown Building at South and Baltimore streets. Brennan Beer Gorman agreed to redesign of the building's top, which masks the project's heating and air conditioning units.

The ARB also saw final designs for the two-hotel complex planned for Inner Harbor East, the $350 million residential and commercial complex being developed by H&S Bakery Inc. owner John Paterakis Sr.

But instead of focusing on the controversial 38-story, $134 million Wyndham, which has sparked fury and a lawsuit from nearby activists opposed to the hotel, the ARB focused on the 207-room Marriott -- and the switch from Wyndham.

"This site is expected to have strong transient business, so the Courtyard brand matches nicely with the market," said Gordon Lamburne, a Marriott International Inc. spokesman. Courtyard features moderately priced hotels that target business travelers.

In tentatively approving the Marriott, the ARB asked architect Peter Fillat to reconsider the use of brick in the design. Currently, the Marriott and an adjacent 10-story office building, Fresh Fields grocery store and parking garage use brick sparingly, and the board suggested the design be "more comprehensive," Brodie said.

Pub Date: 8/08/98

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