Mayor praises plans for city `chiller' plant

January 26, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke welcomed plans yesterday for a new $11 million Baltimore air-conditioning plant that he hopes can heat up the downtown business climate.

At a morning news conference at the Ravens' stadium, Schmoke called the "chiller" plant being built by Comfort Link at Saratoga and Eutaw streets important to the city's plans to renovate an 18-square-block region of downtown's west side.

"It's going to have a tremendous impact on our ability to retain and attract businesses," Schmoke said. "Quite literally, it's creating a better business climate."

Comfort Link, a partnership between Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Monumental Investment Corp., already distributes chilled water to downtown businesses throughout the Inner Harbor region. The company built its first chilling plant in 1996 inside the Baltimore Convention Center.

The new plant will require 20 employees and add 10,000 more feet of network east of the Inner Harbor and west of the Charles Center area. When completed, the plant will create 1 million pounds of ice each night when electric costs are lower to chill water, increasing the number of customers to about 35 downtown buildings.

City officials hope the facility will reduce project costs for the $53 million renovation of the Hippodrome Theater at 12 N. Eutaw St. Last year, the General Assembly dedicated $1.7 million for feasibility and design studies on the theater. But some delegates have raised concerns about the rising cost of the project, initially estimated at $35 million.

Comfort Link officials estimate that they can reduce the Hippodrome costs by a few million dollars if the theater becomes a customer. By operating a central air-conditioning site, architects are spared the need to put such equipment on each site.

The original chiller at the convention center saved the city about $5 million, Schmoke said.

Comfort Link President Stan Gent expects to be making chilled water for the expansion by June with the plant completed by September, he said.

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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