Bids for state property near new stadium sought


After backing away from plans to add an eight-story office building to the former B&O; Warehouse in Camden Yards to house the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Stadium Authority has set July 15 as the deadline for developers to submit proposals for offices, hotel and meeting rooms, tourist attractions or other privately funded projects on state-owned property just east of the new stadium.

The state's official request for proposals, advertised Sunday, marks the first time the Stadium Authority has made any part of the 85-acre stadium parcel available for non-sports-related uses. It represents an important test of the stadium's ability to attract private development to the surrounding area.

If developers respond to the state's offer, the result could be a massive infusion of capital into the area west of the Inner Harbor, countering the trend in which most recent downtown development has been heading east toward Fells Point.

In all, the state's guidelines would permit construction of 1.13 million square feet of space in new and rehabilitated structures -- about as much space as is contained in three large downtown office towers and more commercial space than was leased in the entire Baltimore metropolitan area during 1990.

Development guidelines included in the request for proposals indicate that state officials may allow one parcel east of the warehouse to be developed with a building rising up to 250 feet, or about 25 stories. Another parcel may be developed with one or more towers rising up to 185 feet, or about 18 stories.

Among the groups expected to bid for at least part of the site are the Orioles baseball team, which has expressed interest in redeveloping the historic Camden Station and land south of it, and a consortium headed by Baltimore developer Richard Swirnow, who has been seeking property to build a medical-oriented trade mart and convention center.

Another possibility is the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, which is now based in New York but has been considering Baltimore as a possible site for its new headquarters and has looked at the south end of the B&O; warehouse.

Developers may submit proposals for individual portions of the 6.1-acre site, combinations of buildings and land areas, or the entire site, according to David Chapin, director of the Office of Policy and Program Analysis for the Maryland Department of Transportation and liaison between that agency and the Stadium Authority. "The options are wide open," he said. "We're not looking for any one particular use. The issue of compatibility [with the stadium] will play an important role" in the selection process.

The offering came less than a month after Stadium Authority officials said they would not move ahead with plans to build an $18.5 million addition to the warehouse to house the highway administration, at least until after the ballpark opens.

Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said the offering is being issued in part to determine whether there are any alternatives to the state agency as a tenant for the south end of the warehouse.

The Stadium Authority has been seeking tenants to help defray the cost of renovating the warehouse and saw the highway administration as a prime candidate to fill the south end. But its plan to build an addition to accommodate the agency, which needed more space than the warehouse alone contains, drew opposition from a variety of sources, including the Orioles and Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

The state property up for grabs is made up of the 216,000-square-foot south end of the B&O; warehouse; the 44,400-square-foot train station; a 1.2-acre parcel between the south end of the train station and a proposed extension of Conway Street west of Interstate 395; and the air rights above a 3.8-acre parcel that runs south of the Conway Street extension to the south end of the B&O; warehouse.

The 1.2-acre parcel could hold about 212,000 square feet of space, including a tower rising up to 250 feet on the south part of the site, according to the state's guidelines. The 3.8-acre parcel could hold up to 650,000 square feet of space, including one or more buildings with a "base height" of 66 feet and then a possible tower or towers rising above that base to 185 feet, according to the state's guidelines.

Any development on the 3.8-acre parcel would be in the air rights above the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) Camden Line and a portion of the state's 27-mile line rail line from Hunt Valley to Glen Burnie. The selected developer would be required to build a new MARC terminal as part of the project.

Mr. Chapin said the final selection of any developers would be made jointly by the Stadium Authority and the state Department of Transportation, since much of the land is in the air rights over DOT lines. The state reserves the right to reject any or all proposals. Proceeds from any rental of the land or buildings would be shared by the Stadium Authority and the DOT, but formula has not been worked out, he added.

As part of their review process, Mr. Chapin said, state officials will be evaluating the proposed uses, possible design approaches, past experience of the development team, and evidence of its financial capability to carry out its project.

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