City in Angelos' debt for vision, projects

March 26, 2000|By JOHN STEADMAN

Let it be said with the strongest of conviction, supported by ongoing evidence, that no owner of a Baltimore sports franchise, going back over 100 years, has ever done for his city what Peter Angelos continues to contribute.

It's a scenario that can't be challenged or refuted. He's holding two of Baltimore's most historic centerpieces of tradition: the Orioles, a sports team, and the venerable Marconi's restaurant, plus more business endeavors that no one else in the private sector has yet attempted.

Near his office at 1 Charles Center, which he bought for $6 million in 1996 and plans to upgrade at a cost of about $12 million, he conducted a preview discussion of the comeback he foresees for a downtown Baltimore that has lost much of its sparkle and a desire to remain with the status quo.

"Over there," he said, with much glee, "the new Johns Hopkins University of Advanced Studies will be opening next year." It's at Fayette and Charles streets, across from his towering office structure, in what used to be the Hamburger's department store. And a notch or two up Charles Street is the Fidelity Building, where he is going to place Marconi's on the first floor and entertain diners with strolling violin and cello players.

Angelos has a recognized natural eye for good architecture, although he was never trained in the profession, and is involved in such diverse efforts as building a new luxury hotel near the Convention Center and the rehabilitation of the Hippodrome Theater and the surrounding West Baltimore business area.

He's likewise involved in making over Camden Station for part of the Babe Ruth Museum, which will include exhibits and the story of Maryland's glorious baseball past. A family-type restaurant, but not a fast-food type of endeavor, he says, will be erected nearby.

Meanwhile, off Interstate 83, he's purchased a showplace, 240-acre farm for his string of thoroughbred horses that campaign under the colors of Marathon Stable. Streams and ponds dot the landscape and eight miles of white board fences.

On a stroll and a visit to Marconi's, he expressed an interest in seeing the other end of the block of Saratoga Street and the edifice of what many believe to be in the forefront of Baltimore's most beautiful churches -- strictly old world. "I'm in awe," he said. "I never knew anything this magnificent was here."

Although not a Roman Catholic, he dropped into a pew and said a prayer for his departed immigrant parents who provided him the opportunity to study law and drive to almost unprecedented heights of success.

Any other ideas on what would be an attractive project for Baltimore? "Yes, I believe lower Broadway from North Avenue to the harbor, down from Johns Hopkins Hospital, could be turned into a another Georgetown, like Washington. But the market would have to be relocated so it could be more a factor in drawing business and opening a vista to the harbor."

What about buying Pimlico Race Course, another "old Baltimore" jewel to go with ownership of the Orioles? "No, that's Joe De Francis' deal. I wouldn't want to run his business, but the place has been in need of serious improvements and I would hope its antiquity could be improved like has happened with Churchill Downs."

In his business acquisitions, he has daring, imagination and the finances to make things work. But he's far from a pushover. He was about to buy a Charles Street building from a fraternal organization, but when he found that fittings and fixtures had been removed by the members, he said it was no deal.

What drives him to unrelenting tons of enterprise in a law firm where he employs 85 attorneys? "Work is my hobby. I enjoy it," he answered.

"I try to do things for my city, and if I had a hero in this connection that I worshiped, it was the late Henry Knott, who gave and gave to education and so many philanthropical causes."

About the astronomical salaries in baseball, he says, "I have been on the side of labor all my life, but that doesn't mean it has to bankrupt management.

"What the players make is passed on to the fans in the stands. I would hate for baseball to do what football and basketball has done in charging ticket prices that are going out of reach of the spectators."

He says the Orioles will improve immeasurably over the next two years and prefers to think of them as a surprising element in the playoff mix. He said Mike Hargrove is a firm manager, and that the players realize his ability and won't try to test him.

What Angelos is doing on two fronts, in baseball and within the city, is to restore lost glory.

A difficult undertaking one that merits respect and applause from an audience that too often doesn't realize the full merit of his lofty ambitions, on and off the field.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.