Association unveils visitors center plans

Group seeks $4 million for project to be built beside Inner Harbor

January 16, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association has resurrected a 5-year-old plan to build a $7 million visitors center on Light Street beside the Inner Harbor.

The organization unveiled revised drawings last week of a 14,000-square-foot, two-story, glass-walled building immediately south of Harborplace where tourists could buy tickets for entertainment events and learn about Baltimore's culture and history.

The association will seek about $4 million in the spring from the city, the state and a corporate sponsor to pay for the project, said Dan Lincoln, the group's vice president of tourism. The city and state have already committed to spending $3 million.

"Right now, we have about 14 million visitors a year coming to Baltimore," said Lincoln.

"Our objective is to have the visitors come back more often and learn that there is more to do and see in the city than just walking around the Inner Harbor," he said.

Construction could begin in the summer and be completed a year later if the organization wins the funding, Lincoln said.

The association is seeking a company willing to help pay for the project, as well as money from the city and state. In return, the company could have its name placed on the building's front, facing the water, beside the words "Baltimore Visitors Center."

The city's Design Advisory Panel gave the plans preliminary approval Thursday, although the association will have to return for a final review.

The Baltimore-based Design Collective planning firm unveiled sketches of a building with a large glass window facing the National Aquarium, a gift shop, a 2,000-square-foot conference center, a small theater to show movies about Baltimore's history and culture, and a picnic area with a grove of trees.

The project would be separate from an information center planned for the Constellation. Plans are to construct that center immediately east of the historic ship. The city gave the Light Street visitors center preliminary approval in 1995. But the failure of the City Life Museums the next year put a damper on the project, association officials said.

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