Cirque du Soleil to perform in April on AlliedSignal site

Performances of troupe to be first event on land since cleanup finished

January 29, 2003|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

In an effort to ease the public onto a formerly polluted industrial site that juts into the Inner Harbor, developers who plan on building offices and shops there will first play host to a popular Canadian troupe of performers.

Mayor Martin O'Malley plans to announce Feb. 5 that the Cirque du Soleil will perform on the former AlliedSignal chromium plant site under tents from April 11 to 27.

The shows will be the first major attraction held on the site since a lengthy process of burying and capping toxic waste was completed in June 1999.

The city and a spokeswoman for Cirque du Soleil confirmed that an announcement is planned.

Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, said he had been talking with the developers about their site, now called Harbor Point, for months about an event when Cirque du Soleil officials contacted the city.

"We've always used special events as a way of marketing special areas of downtown," he said. "It's a proven thing."

Cirque du Soleil is probably best known for its aquatic performances in Las Vegas called "O," but it also puts on several shows around the world that incorporate street acts with theater and circus attractions - without the animals.

In Baltimore, they will perform a show called Dralion - a fusion between the dragon, representing the East, and the lion, which represents the West, according to Cirque du Soleil's Web site - with 35 Chinese artists and clowns. A temporary arena will seat up to 2,500 spectators, Cirque du Soleil said.

Anita Nelving, a spokeswoman for the circus, said that more details would be provided at next week's City Hall news conference.

"We'd like to keep things under wraps until then," Nelving said.

C. William Struever, who is teaming with bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr. to develop the 27-acre site, agreed that Cirque would be good for the site and for the city.

Struever likened the shows to the fairs that the city was host in the 1970s at the once industrial Inner Harbor to well up enthusiasm for new development there.

"The goal is to begin programming special events and activities out of Harbor Point so people can experience what a fantastic spot it is," he said.

Until now, there has been little activity on the Allied site.

The vast parcel has sat quiet for about a decade since Allied and its new owner, Honeywell International Inc., spent $100 million demolishing the plant and covering the waste with a cap of clay.

It was considered one of the state's most complex hazardous waste cleanup sites.

Honeywell must monitor the underground waste in perpetuity, although government agencies have approved the parcel for redevelopment.

Developers view it as one of the largest and last opportunities to build downtown, and they plan a complex of offices, shops, parks and hotel rooms.

They said construction could begin by the end of the year on up to 1.8 million square feet of commercial space.

The developers are working on the details of their 100-year lease from Honeywell, and Cirque du Soleil will sublease the site from the developers.

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