Architects discuss visual impacts of convention hotel near ballpark

No public hearing is planned before selection of developer

April 12, 2003|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Because the city is not planning to hold a public hearing on construction of a downtown convention headquarters hotel before it chooses a developer, a group of architects held a forum yesterday to discuss the visual impacts of a large development in the shadow of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The city plans to choose from three proposals submitted for the project, which is to rise from public land and likely require public subsidy or ownership. Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, has formed a selection committee that has held closed-door meetings but has no open ones planned.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC, said the public can write or e-mail comments to the agency.

"We don't quarrel with that," said J. Joseph Clarke, a local developer who helped organize the meeting of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects. "But we thought someone ought to hold a forum. ... We got 80 people to come here on a nasty day to talk about this issue. It's obviously of interest."

Klaus H. Philipsen, co-chair of the institute's local urban design committee, said the convention hotel parcel is "one of the most exposed lots we have in the city." The site, a parking lot, is along Pratt Street west of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Philipsen said the architects have studied the site at length over the last decade. They have proposed maintaining open space and the views from the ballpark to downtown. They consider it a crucial link between Camden Yards, the Inner Harbor and the west side of downtown.

Similar to the way New York's Central Park enhances its Manhattan neighborhood, Philipsen said, open space in Baltimore could make the area around it more pleasurable for locals and visitors as well as increase the value of properties surrounding it. He said the hotel development could work in some public space without harming its economic success.

The city has proposed building a convention hotel largely to bolster the underperforming city-owned convention center and did not require a public park in its request for proposals from developers.

Only one of the development teams' architects attended the meeting. Peter Fillat, who represents a largely local group of developers, plans a public park on half of the parcel, which is split by Eutaw Street.

The city has set no timetable to pick a development team from among three proposals submitted. On the selection committee are Brodie; Donald Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee; Clarence Bishop, chief of staff for Mayor Martin O'Malley; Owen Tonkins, director of the city's Office of Minority Business Development; Barbara Plantholt Melera, president and chief executive of Triad Investors Corp.; and Jay Wilson, general partner of Spring Capital Partners LP.

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