The city has determined that it will cost about $20 million to repair and replace bulkheading in southern Baltimore that a Florida real estate developer says is necessary to proceed with work on a planned Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
City officials are considering spending the money required to shore up the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. shipyard, but have asked developer Neil Fisher to make a commitment that he will construct a "five-star" luxury hotel on land adjacent to the Rusty Scupper restaurant.
"They want confirmation that I will indeed be bringing a five-star hotel to Baltimore before they go ahead, and I need to know that I have community support and that they will undertake the necessary work," Fisher said.
Fisher is seeking community support because his design for the 250-room lodging and condominium project would exceed 71-foot height restrictions on the property. Fisher's design calls for a dual-towered hotel that would go as high as 12 stories, or more than 100 feet.
Fisher also said he needs to receive a green light from his operator -- believed to be the Atlanta-based Ritz-Carlton -- on preliminary designs before exercising an option to acquire the land for the $85 million hotel.
An analysis estimating the cost of the bulkhead repair was recently completed by the city's Public Works Department.
But city officials said a decision on whether to proceed with the work won't come until the project clears several other hurdles.
"We're waiting for Neil Fisher to finish his negotiations with Federal Hill residents and come back to us with an economic pro forma that shows the total package, what the private side would contribute and what he is asking from the public sector," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency.
"Any decisions will be made after that kind of analysis, and we're not there yet," Brodie said.
City officials and state Department of Transportation officials pledged more than a decade ago to make necessary bulkhead repairs to pave the way for development of the $600 million HarborView project on Key Highway, but work halted when that project stalled after developing only one of proposed six condominium towers.
Just two towers
HarborView's developers are working on a plan to add a second rental apartment tower, however, that would be smaller than the 27-story high-rise there now. In exchange, HarborView's developers would scrap the other towers and replace them with low-rise projects and townhouses.
State transportation officials recently reaffirmed their commitment to the bulkhead work, which Fisher contends is critical to development of the hotel, sources said.
The bulkhead work will allow the city to continue a waterfront promenade intended to border the Inner Harbor and surrounding areas, which would open up the Federal Hill and surrounding areas to pedestrians.
The city's consideration of the bulkhead repairs raises the question of whether, at least indirectly, it will provide economic incentives to assist the Ritz-Carlton.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has said he supports the project but would not provide financial inducements for it. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Although Fisher said he would not seek any public subsidy to develop his hotel, he has asked that the former Bethlehem Steel "Propeller Yard" be included in an enterprise zone, which would entitle the project to some property tax relief and tax credits based on the number of employees the hotel hires.
A Ritz-Carlton hotel typically creates 500 full- and part-time jobs.
The property at one time had been included in a southern Baltimore enterprise zone, but was removed in October at the behest of state Sen. George W. Della Jr.
Pub Date: 3/10/99