Majesty on the water

Inner Harbor: AlliedSignal's 27-acre peninsula offers rare opportunity for prestige building.

June 29, 1999

THE WATERFRONT LAND once occupied by an AlliedSignal chrome plant represents a rare redevelopment opportunity. Its size and location -- a 27-acre peninsula adjoining Fells Point -- make it one of the most prestigious building sites in the city.

For those reasons alone, city officials and AlliedSignal executives ought to be picky about what is built there.

Years ago, AlliedSignal -- which has spent $100 million decontaminating the site -- acquired a permit to build a mixed-use development of offices and residences. It still could do that. Recently, though, talk has included a "signature" structure that would be for Baltimore what the harbor-front opera house is for Sydney, Australia.

About a year ago, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke toyed briefly with the idea of building a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment complex at the site. Though that idea was abandoned because of traffic concerns, some boosters still see the AlliedSignal land as tailor-made for a civic landmark.

AlliedSignal has started marketing the land but seems to be in no hurry to decide its future use. For one thing, sale of the land is out of the question. Because of unresolved liability issues, a developer would have to take a long-term lease on the property.

Then there is the dispute over a possible bridge to provide better access to the AlliedSignal site. A proposed bridge would halve a neighboring city-owned parcel where the nonprofit Living Classrooms Foundation has built its 3-acre education and training complex. A land swap has been suggested, but the foundation opposes it -- at least for now.

A decade ago, AlliedSignal showed exemplary corporate leadership in deciding to use its own money for an enormously costly decontamination effort. Understandably, the company wants to recoup some of its costs. The company, however, must reject shortsighted, piecemeal plans for this unique site. Mr. Schmoke summed it up last week when he said, " `Do it right' has to be the watchword when we move to the next phase."

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