Sylvan rethinks venture

Infrastructure issues stall Baltimore site for young companies

Economic development

March 31, 2000|By Eileen Ambrose | Eileen Ambrose,SUN STAFF

Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. said "serious obstacles" may prevent Baltimore from being chosen as the home for the company's proposed $500 million incubator venture.

The company is talking to city and state officials about overcoming issues that include a lack of parking and a need for fiber-optics access, said Patrick Richards, executive director of corporate real estate for Sylvan.

Sylvan also is seeking an economic package from the state.

"Certainly, we will need help building the infrastructure to support a venture like that," Richards said. How much state assistance Sylvan will need hasn't been determined, he said.

Sylvan, the Baltimore-based teaching and training company, announced last month that it would launch an incubator to invest in Internet-related education businesses.

In a letter this month to city, state and economic officials, the company said it is evaluating numerous sites in Maryland and Virginia for the incubator's headquarters. A copy of the letter was obtained yesterday by The Sun.

"While we had hoped that Baltimore would emerge as the winning location for the incubator, there are serious obstacles that must be overcome for this to happen," wrote Douglas L. Becker, Sylvan chairman and chief executive officer.

"We have a duty to our shareholders and our new incubator partners, such as Apollo, to ensure that we have sited the incubator in a site that will provide the optimal infrastructure, work force and economic package."

Apollo Management, with offices in New York, is investing $100 million in the plan.

Becker could not be reached for further comment.

In his letter, Becker said that while the incubator may invest in many companies worldwide, it is expected that a significant number of those businesses will be located on one campus. As much as $200 million of the incubator's money will be focused on those campus businesses, he said.

The incubator will need up to 400,000 square feet of space and 1,000 to 3,000 high-tech workers, Becker wrote.

Richards said parking will be needed for those workers as well as employees of any companies servicing the campus. Asked if Sylvan was talking to other cities or states, he said the company was considering all its options.

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