Baltimore's Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel gave approval Thursday to a revised design for the casino scheduled to be built near where Russell Street enters the heart of the city.
The latest renderings show a modern-design building made of a golden-hued stone. In the new images, a garage that sits behind the casino — and therefore can be seen from Interstates 95 and 395 — has been redesigned to appear less bulky and more horizontal. It is also shown sitting within a robust grove of trees. UDARP panel members had blasted architects over the garage design when they first presented it in September because of the way it dominated the landscape.
"The large garage has become a building rather than an accommodation, and I think that's very promising," said Gary Bowden, one of two UDARP reviewers present for the session.
Caesars Entertainment, the majority owner and operator of the casino, had originally planned to build a Harrah's brand casino that reflected the red brick architecture of nearby Camden Yards, but decided to switch to a Horseshoe brand when table games were made legal. The company considers the new concept to be more elegant, and designers eschewed bright signage and attention-grabbing lighting to create a more subdued feel.
Architects for the project will need to meet with the planning department to address a few lingering concerns, but that process is considered a formality; a team from the city has worked closely with casino representatives for the last several months to refine the design of the 320,000-square-foot building and adjoining garage.
Lee Monfort, Caesars' vice president for design and construction, said the project could have all necessary permits within a week. Preliminary work clearing and leveling the area has already begun, he said, but full-scale construction likely will not begin for another month. The casino is scheduled to open in the middle of 2014.
Chad Barnhill, general manager for Horseshoe Baltimore, said the company had still not formed a response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday seeking to delay construction pending further review of the casino site. Barnhill said he would be open to meeting with community members in the nearby Westport neighborhood who are named in the suit and have said they worry the casino will not do enough to clean the former industrial site.
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