Plans for old Port Discovery balloon-ride site revised again

The developer of city-owned land over the Shot Tower Metro station wants to again revise its plans for the parcel, which has sat unused since 2004, the city's development corporation said Wednesday.

The Cordish Cos., which gained development rights to 701 E. Baltimore St. in 2005, now wants to build a structure that contains 226 apartments, 15,000 square feet of retail space and 225 parking spots, according to a statement from the Baltimore Development Corp.

The revised project is expected to cost about $63 million, according to the BDC statement. Cordish is requesting a negotiated annual payment in lieu of taxes, as is typical when private developers build on city-owned land.

The original plan was estimated to cost $70 million and called for 125 condominiums, 125 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space and 400 above-ground parking spots on the site, which is less than an acre.

A high-end bowling alley was slated for at least some of the retail space. The original timeline called for the building to open within two years.

In 2007, those plans were scrapped and Cordish gave the BDC two alternatives, both less ambitious than the initial proposal.

One called for about 100 apartments and a much smaller retail space than what had been allocated for the bowling alley. The other proposed the same amount of retail area and a 100-room hotel. Both offered 100 parking spaces.

"They've never given up," said BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie, of Cordish's continued interest in developing the site in spite of setbacks due to the recession.

The revised proposal should be presented to the BDC board within the next few months, Brodie said.

The property has not been active since the summer of 2004, when 17 people were stranded in a balloon ride on the site for nearly two hours during a storm. The BDC did not renew the Port Discovery HiFlyer balloon operator's contract after the incident.

Cordish representatives did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.