Hippodrome revitalization estimated at $53 million

$1.8 million sought from Md. this year for arts center

January 12, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

The latest cost estimate for turning Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater into a contemporary performing arts center is $53 million, and Maryland's General Assembly will be asked to allocate $1.8 million this year to finish design work on the project.

Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, told authority members yesterday that the price tag includes about $2 million to cover the cost of land acquisition and relocating tenants in a building that would be part of the project.

Of the $53 million, Hoffman said, construction work would cost about $41 million, while design fees and other "soft costs" would require $5 million and "furniture, fixtures and equipment" would add $5 million.

"Our target was to try to get it to $50 million," Hoffman said. "I'd rather go to [the legislators] and tell them what it really is rather than give them a low figure and have them bail me out later. We're trying to be responsible and tell them what it is."

The proposed performing arts center has been identified as a centerpiece of the city's $350 million plan to revitalize an 18-block district between Charles Center and the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus. The stadium authority is the state agency that is coordinating plans to renovate the 1914 theater at 12 S. Eutaw St. and surrounding properties.

At a meeting yesterday, stadium authority members approved proposed legislation that would give the agency legal authority to acquire by condemnation or other means several properties that would be added to the theater to create a full-fledged arts center that could seat 2,240 patrons.

The properties include the Baltimore Grand, a catering facility at 401 W. Fayette St.; the Eutaw Building at 400 W. Baltimore St.; and two other lots in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St. The legislation must be passed by the General Assembly before the stadium authority could try to acquire the properties.

Hoffman said state legislators allocated $1.7 million last year to begin design work and the stadium authority will seek another $1.8 million this year to complete it. The authority might seek another $1.6 million to $1.8 million in a supplemental budget to acquire properties, he said.

If the money is approved this legislative session, he said, the authority would seek about $21.5 million for Hippodrome construction funds, through a combination of grants and bond issues, during next year's session. That would bring the state's contribution to the project to $25 million, including the $3.5 million for feasibility studies and design work.

Under the stadium authority's funding plan, the state construction funds would be combined with public and private funds, including $6 million from the city of Baltimore; $8 million from the company that wants to operate the facility, Theater Management Group of Houston; $8 million in private contributions; and $6 million from the sale of tax credits for historic preservation.

If the construction funds are allocated in April 2000, work could begin that spring and be complete by the fall of 2001, planners say.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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