Planning board OKs downtown garage

Plan calls for 6 buildings to be demolished

April 09, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Planning Commission members approved a 440-space parking garage yesterday for the city's downtown that will require displacement of a dozen businesses, including a popular bar.

The $12 million project, which includes demolition of six buildings and the construction of the garage, is designed to alleviate a parking shortage downtown. Parking studies have shown that the city needs 3,600 more spaces downtown for existing businesses.

"We have lost businesses because of a lack of parking in downtown," said Andrew B. Frank, a director of economic development for Baltimore Development Corp. He mentioned the recent decision by American Express to relocate its downtown offices to Baltimore County.

The garage planned for Calvert and Water streets is the first of five sites where the city is seeking to build more parking spaces. The site at Calvert and Water streets also will include retail and office space.

While most agree that the city needs more parking, the plan approved by the commission will require demolition of six buildings on South Calvert Street and in the 100 block of Water St.

The Calvert Street buildings include the almost 2-year-old Twister's nightclub. Owner Zee Shaalan opposed the city's plans for the parking garage because he said the cost for him to relocate his business threatens its ability to survive.

"I just moved in," Shaalan said. "My business cost me about a half-million dollars. I don't think I want to move anytime soon."

Philip Blazer Catzen, owner of Cape Computing Corp., a computer company in the 100 block of Water St., said relocating his 15 computer servers could devastate his business because his online services could suffer in the move.

"I will sustain damages unless this thing is very carefully planned and very carefully executed," Catzen said. "I'd love to see the nature of Water Street preserved."

Commission members and city leaders said they would support changes in city regulations that would help the business owners relocate with minimal disruption to their operations and give them an opportunity to move into retail and office space at the new garage.

"The city can change the regulations; they didn't come from God," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp. "We will be your advocate in getting the regulations changed."

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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