City reveals 5 plans submitted for Fells Point's Recreation Pier

Most include a berth for `Pride of Baltimore II'

March 01, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Recreation Pier -- once the place to go in Baltimore for music, dancing and fun -- could reclaim that status under a development proposal that calls for a waterfront Ferris wheel, miniature golf course, and a tugboat museum.

That is one of five concepts submitted to the city for redeveloping Fells Point's signature structure that were released yesterday.

Other ideas include a 12-story condominium tower, a hotel, and a mixture of offices and retail shops.

Most of the proposals include making the pier the permanent berth of the clipper ship Pride of Baltimore II. The Pride has no permanent year-round berth in its home port.

The red brick building, which sits on a pier fronting Thames Street, is shuttered. Built in 1914, it was once a social and an educational hub for the thousands of immigrants who came to Baltimore in the early 20th century.

It once housed the harbormaster's office. Families gathered on the pier for swimming and sunbathing. More recently, it was the set of an NBC police drama.

Key to many of the proposals are historic tax credits, a program which lawmakers have suggested abolishing in the current General Assembly session.

"It would be devastating to lose access to that [tax credit] resource," said Robert F. Pipik, director of asset management for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. "It would be a lot more difficult if not impossible to do this building. ... It's core for us."

Each of the five teams has at least one Baltimore-based developer.

Brian D. Morris, chief executive officer of Baltimore-based Legacy Harrison Development LLC, led the team that proposed a $10 million outdoor amusement park. The ballroom over the waterfront would become a public atrium.

Yeni Wong of Washington teamed with the Baltimore firms RTKL and Whiting Turner to propose a public promenade on the pier alongside 85 low-rise housing units. Wong is planning to build a complex of lofts near Pennsylvania Station in the city's newly designated arts district.

Lambda Development LLC, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, and H&S properties submitted a proposal to build 28 luxury homes, along with office or commercial space, and to provide a permanent berth for the Pride of Baltimore II to celebrate the city's maritime history. Other public uses could include a dance or catering hall.

Joshua E. Neiman, a development director at Struever Bros. said he anticipated changes as the Fells Point community evaluates the proposals. "I expect a detailed dialogue with the community," Neiman said.

Local banker and maritime executive Edwin F. Hale Sr. also put in a housing proposal, for a 12-story building of waterfront condominiums.

J. Joseph Clarke and the New Orleans-based Historic Restoration Inc. proposed a $29.5 million hotel project with 145 rooms for a new Doubletree Club Hotel aimed at couples or families visiting the city for short stays. The ballroom would be preserved, Clarke said.

Hale and Clarke also included a permanent berth for the Pride of Baltimore II in their plans -- something the Pride's caretakers applauded yesterday. The ship needs a more prominent place in its home port, said Linda Christenson, head of the nonprofit Pride of Baltimore Inc.

"We hope the Pride will be a public use since it's a natural fit," Christenson said.

The documents revealed yesterday were "requests for qualifications" -- the first step in the process. The city will choose the winning proposal in two or three months, Pipik said, after seeking community comment.

One idea appears to be a crowd-pleaser in Fells Point: having the Pride in its midst.

Lori Guess, head of the Fells Point community task force for the Recreation Pier, said, "I was hoping they would include the Pride because that is something the community has talked a lot about. ... It's so much about the maritime feel."

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