Bromo hits the beach

The city's landmark tower will lend its good looks to a tropical shopping and recreation center

August 08, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff

For decades, the Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore was the symbol for a famous headache remedy made by the Emerson Drug Co. The tower even had a large blue Bromo Seltzer bottle on top.

Now a developer in Aruba is planning to build a clone of the Bromo tower to symbolize a different kind of remedy: sun and fun at the beach.

Aruba's tower, inspired by the 1911 landmark in Baltimore, will be the centerpiece of a shopping and recreational center called Beachside Aruba -- part of the Dutch Caribbean island's upscale Palm Beach area.

Expected to be complete within two years, it will actually be a clone of a clone, since Baltimore's tower is a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio, a 13th-century watchtower in Florence, Italy.

"It's a combination of the Bromo Seltzer Tower and the one in Italy," says Kathleen Carney, communications director for the Development Design Group Inc. "It will be one of the tallest buildings on the beach -- a beacon to draw vacationers.

The Aruba project was designed by Development Design Group, a Baltimore-based architecture firm, to embody the "spirit of the islands." Its design borrows liberally from the white stucco and clay-tiled roofs of Moorish and Moroccan castles of the Mediterranean and Algerian coasts.

The Bromo Tower replica was not originally part of Beachside Aruba, which will include 150,000 square feet of space for shopping, dining, live entertainment and a casino.

But on the way downtown from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to meet with his architects, developer John Chemaly, president of Costa del Sol Development Co., spotted the 300-foot-tall tower at Lombard and Eutaw streets. According to Roy Higgs, chief executive officer of Development Design Group, the tower made such an impression on Chemaly that he asked for one similar to it to be part of his project.

Chemaly wanted a signature element for his project, Higgs explained. "He saw this [tower] and said, 'That's exactly what we need.' "

The architects took his suggestion and incorporated a 140-foot-tall tower -- half the size of Baltimore's, with four clock faces -- into the Aruba project. At the top will be an observation deck featuring panoramic views of Aruba's western coast.

Baltimore's Bromo Tower has been in the news because city officials disclosed recently that they may allow a private developer to convert it from offices to housing. The city plans to seek proposals for such a project within the next several months.

Aruba's tower won't have a bottle of Bromo Seltzer at the top. Given the location, though, it just might be the perfect spot to advertise something else: a bottle of suntan lotion.

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