Architecture Column

Design panel balks at hotel's 'severe' look

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"It feels like you're walking on hotel property versus walking along Pratt Street," he said.

Panel members also suggested animating the Pratt Street side with retail space at street level, and they said the roof of the junior ballroom needed more study.

Kreitner, who was asked to address the architects and review panel because of his role in the west-side renewal efforts, said he is concerned that the hotel would block key views of Camden Station and the B&O Warehouse.

"You have eliminated most of the vistas of Camden Station" from Pratt Street, he told the architects. "We need to do everything we can to make this an interesting view and to honor the station."

Kirby Fowler, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, said he didn't like the way the overhead "connectors" would enclose Eutaw Street and block views down it.

"You want to keep that view corridor the way it is today as much as possible," he said. "I understand that you have to connect the buildings, but it could be done in a much more unobtrusive way."

Martin Millspaugh, former head of Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc., said the design "hasn't gotten to the point yet where it could serve as a gateway to the Inner Harbor.

"It's a difficult assignment," Millspaugh said. "It has to be both functionally successful and aesthetically spectacular. Otherwise, it's not going to attract all the people it needs to attract in order to be successful."

The building will be operated as a Hilton. M. J. "Jay" Brodie, who heads the Baltimore Development Corp., told the panel that the city wants to break ground by the end of this year.

"We want to move forward in a professional way that gives us a building we are proud of when we're finished," said Brodie, speaking for the city and the design team.

Rolley, who has become a leading voice for good design in Baltimore, said he believes the city has an obligation to make the hotel better. "We can't go backwards," he said. "Not for $305 million."

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