BCCC rethinks harbor location

School administrators considering demolishing building and leasing site

Move to west side possible

Officials to study future of campus over 18 months

March 25, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Community College may close its campus near the Inner Harbor, lease the land to a developer and use the money to expand to a larger facility downtown, a college official said yesterday.

College President Sylvester E. McKay told the City Council that the college is studying the possibility of a move, perhaps to Howard Street in the city's west-side redevelopment area.

Demolishing the outdated Bard building, an angular, five-story structure built 26 years ago at Market Place and Lombard Street, would also save the college the $15 million cost of repairing the building's roof, upgrading its electrical systems and performing other necessary repairs, McKay said.

"There are serious problems with the building," McKay said. "We are toying with the idea of moving the Harbor Campus to Howard Street. ... We are looking at alternatives because we cannot expand in that location [on Market Place]."

Any move would have to be approved by the college's nine-member board of directors, and by the state Board of Public Works, which includes the governor, because the college is a state agency.

Relocating the college would open up a valuable piece of real estate near the Inner Harbor. The Cordish Co.'s Power Plant Live! entertainment is just to the north, and Cordish's Power Plant office and restaurant building is a block to the south.

"You could make a pretty penny for that property," said City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton after hearing McKay's presentation.

McKay estimated that the college could generate more than $1 million a year in rent from a developer, who would be selected through competitive bids.

In 1998, the college approved the demolition of its Lockwood building at 500 E. Pratt Street - just south of the Bard building - and allowed the Pennsylvania-based Kravco Co. to lease the 2.8-acre site for $1.1 million a year.

Kravco and partners have built a parking garage on the Lockwood site and say they intend to create shops and offices.

"We are developing a long-term plan for the Harbor Campus, and looking at our choices," said McKay. "We could remain where we are or move to another location downtown. We could also perhaps add [a building] in East Baltimore."

The college's administrators intend to study the future of the Harbor Campus during the next 18 months, McKay said.

College officials plan to work with the city's development agency, the Baltimore Development Corp., and tour possible sites on Howard Street.

Although the school has not identified any buildings on Howard Street, the area is attractive because it is close to the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus and light rail, subway and bus lines, McKay said.

The once-troubled college has seen its enrollment increase by 25 percent during the past five years, to 8,000 in for-credit classes. The growth has forced administrators to look for more space.

Yesterday, City Council President Sheila Dixon said she worries that a group pushing the west-side revitalization efforts, West Side Renaissance Inc., led by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, might resist a Howard Street location for the campus.

"Have you got the approval of Peter Angelos?" Dixon asked. "That Renaissance group didn't want a high school over there."

Angelos was not available for comment yesterday. Ronald M. Kreitner, executive director of West Side Renaissance, said he was not aware of the college's discussions but would be happy to speak with college administrators about a west-side move.

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