Paterakis, Cordish and the big harbor plan

Piers 5 and 6: Developers want to expand Harbor Inn, eliminating waterfront concert pavilion.

August 08, 1999

TWO OF the Inner Harbor's most aggressive developers -- John Paterakis and David Cordish -- want to remake piers 5 and 6.

Individually or jointly, they are talking about building a garage and retail shops on city-owned land around the Columbus Center and razing the concert pavilion to expand the 65-room Harbor Inn hotel and restaurant complex.

Except for the garage, for which Mr. Cordish has submitted a written proposal, the ideas are only at the talking stage.

This developer interest is not surprising: Piers 5 and 6 contain some of the last vacant or underutilized Inner Harbor land. They also adjoin current projects by Mr. Cordish and Mr. Paterakis.

Nearby, Mr. Paterakis is building a 750-room skyscraper hotel as well as a separate 207-room, low-rise inn. Mr. Cordish, meanwhile, is planning a soaring addition to his phenomenally successful Power Plant retail and entertainment complex. He is also reviving a failed arcade of shops and restaurants across from the Port Discovery children's museum.

Because more intensive development of Piers 5 and 6 requires changes in urban renewal laws, any proposals should endure early and thorough public debate. Baltimoreans remember well how legislation was rammed through that allowed Mr. Paterakis' taxpayer-subsidized 31-story hotel at Inner Harbor East. Many of the same issues -- from scale to public access to the water -- are also present at Piers 5 and 6.

On Pier 5, Mr. Paterakis already owns the Harbor Inn. In addition to a garage adjoining the Columbus Center, Mr. Cordish proposes to build shops on the pier's vacant land.

On Pier 6, a partnership between Mr. Cordish and Mr. Paterakis is operating the tented, summer concert pavilion, which was modernized in 1992. The current entertainment contract expires in 2001. When the pavilion was originally built in 1981, it was not regarded as permanent.

Regardless of what happens on Piers 5 and 6, the shoreline is being more intensively developed. The National Aquarium is planning an addition that will make its complex more imposing. The effect will only be magnified by the addition to the nearby Power Plant.

In the early years of the Inner Harbor, officials insisted no walls should prevent Baltimoreans and visitors from enjoying the water.

With the exception of the World Trade Center, the pentagonal 28-story colossus designed by I. M. Pei, only mid-rise buildings were allowed at the water's edge or along Pratt and Light streets.

The more successful the Inner Harbor became, the more City Hall was willing to violate the rule.

The first exception was the high-rise addition to the IBM Building on Pratt Street. The condominium tower of the Harbor Court Hotel was next.

With developers now talking about changes on piers 5 and 6, the entire area needs a master plan to guide its future.

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