Limited-service, 126-room hotel planned near Camden Yards

Spring groundbreaking expected for project on city-owned property

September 24, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Developers said yesterday that they are putting the finishing touches on a plan for a 126-room, limited-service hotel on a small, triangular-shaped lot near Camden Yards on the west side of downtown.

Several years in the making, the proposed hotel joins a number that are in the works or on the drawing board in Baltimore. If ground is broken for it in the spring, as planned, the hotel will defy a tough financing environment and become the third limited-service or extended-stay hotel downtown on which construction has begun in recent years.

"This one is pretty small," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm. "There is room for them all."

Brodie has toiled for years to attract developers and lenders who could bring more hotel rooms to the city to bolster the underperforming Baltimore Convention Center and accommodate more leisure and business travelers.

A 750-room convention headquarters hotel, a Hilton, has been proposed on a much larger parking lot just to the east of the latest planned hotel, but Brodie said the city is far from having too many rooms.

The newest project would be developed by Robert Meeks, an associate broker for Next Realty Mid-Atlantic LLC of Alexandria, Va., and Duane Taylor, a Baltimore developer, on city-owned land at the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and Greene Street.

Taylor signed a long-term lease with the city for the land about four years ago, and he and Meeks plan to buy it when all the approvals from city planners and architectural reviewers are secured. They and the city have not settled on a price, which is subject to the approval of the city Board of Estimates.

The hotel would serve baseball fans, business travelers and visitors to nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore, developers said. They had an agreement to make the property a Baymont Inn & Suites, but that brand name was sold and is no longer available, they said. A new one has not been identified.

Developers said construction financing is lined up but contingent on the name and city approvals, which could be complicated by the tight confines of the property. They declined to identify the investors or lenders.

Financing has been a sticking point for many of the other proposed hotels, especially since Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent recession. The hunt for sufficient money has stalled indefinitely a proposed Embassy Suites at Light and Redwood streets and led to the elimination of plans for a Ritz-Carlton hotel on Key Highway. Other developers have also changed course on building hotels in the face of grim lending prospects.

Two other hotels downtown were able to lock in financing with the help of the city or historic tax credits. A Hampton Inn & Suites opened at Calvert and Redwood streets in March, and a Marriott Residence Inn at Light and Redwood streets is under construction. An upscale Four Seasons is planned on the waterfront in Harbor East.

Meeks said his hotel will take a year to build once it has city approvals. A proposed brick and stucco design got a lukewarm response from the city's Design Advisory Panel yesterday.

Meeks said a hotel near the ballpark, the university and a main entrance to the city would appeal to travelers.

"We're on the west end of downtown, on the most identifiable site," he said.

Meeks, whose Virginia office is owned by a Chicago-based company, has primarily developed retail sites and has not built a hotel. Taylor, formerly of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc., also has not developed a hotel. The two are considering other local projects.

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