The city's Design Advisory Panel rejected yesterday the proposed look of buildings that Pimlico Race Course officials had hoped to erect along Park Heights Avenue in its bid to remake the horse track into a gambling and entertainment complex.
The four-story buildings would be used as dormitories for trainers, other track officials and visitors and would contain retail shops on their ground floors.
Walter Lynch, Pimlico's development director, told the panel that landscaping work, previously approved by the panel, was under way and that he was seeking approval for the design of the buildings as a next step in the project in Northwest Baltimore.
But the panel said the buildings were too bulky and didn't blend with the residential community that borders Pimlico. The panel also said the props, drawings and exhibits offered by Lynch did not adequately portray how overbearing the buildings could look across the street from rowhouses and storefronts.
"I'm trying to get my arms around what this is going to look like for the Park Heights area," said Otis Rolley III, the city's planning director, who suggested Lynch produce exhibits of the project built to scale against the existing neighborhood.
"I would like to see more hierarchy in relationship to the neighborhood," said Deborah K. Dietsch, a panel member.
One panel member questioned why Lynch had requested to come before the board yesterday. "I don't understand what there is to approve when you haven't presented anything," said Gary A. Bowden.
After the meeting, Lynch said confusion at yesterday's meeting stems partly from his not clearly knowing what the panel wants.
"There were a lot of mixed signals regarding the retail shops, the building type, the edge trimmings and a lot of that came from the Design Advisory Panel and the city," Lynch said.
"We came here today because we really wanted some direction," Lynch said. "And I think they gave us enough that we can come back and address some of their concerns."
The decision is likely only a temporary setback in the sometimes contentious and prodding relationship between the panel and Pimlico's development team, which has been meeting occasionally for more than a year about the track project.
Yesterday, the panel invited Lynch to come back and seek its approval, but only after developing a proposal that addresses its questions and concerns.
Pimlico owners announced plans to refurbish the racetrack when they lobbied to be a site for slot machines should they be legalized in Maryland. The project also calls for new horse stalls, concert theaters, banquet facilities and possibly a hotel.