The race to select the location and developers for a proposed $97 million building to house the federal Health Care Financing Administration entered the backstretch yesterday as Baltimore officials picked a team of local favorites to represent the city's interests in the bidding process.
Baltimore's Center City-Inner Harbor Management Inc. said yesterday that it pared down an original field of 21 contestants to one finalist: a joint venture between the Rouse Co. of Columbia, Baltimore's Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and developer Daniel P. Henson III, also of Baltimore.
The Rouse-Whiting-Henson team will compete against eight Baltimore County development teams to woo the General Services Administration, the federal agency that will select the site for a consolidated Health Care Financing Administration headquarters.
HCFA's 3,000 employees now work in five locations throughout Woodlawn. GSA has limited the geographical areas under consideration for the new facility to a portion of downtown and an area stretching from Woodlawn to Owings Mills in Baltimore County.
The new building would contain 664,000 square feet and would serve as the national headquarters for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and the federal government has agreed to buy it after the building is completed.
"I think it's not unlikely that we'll see national health care some day in some form, in which case this [HCFA complex] will explode," said Jeff Middlebrooks, Center City's vice president for development. "It takes on a lot more meaning than getting the jobs in here."
Baltimore City has made available a site just north of the new Camden Yards stadium, on the block bounded by Pratt, Camden, Paca and Eutaw streets. Douglas A. McGregor, Rouse's executive vice president for development, said that the location's proximity to highways and rail lines should appeal to a General Services Administration that has a mandate to make the federal government's agencies more cost-effective and efficient.
Mr. McGregor said that his team hasn't selected an architect because it wanted to look at the GSA's bid for proposals, which was expected by the end of last month.
The final request now isn't expected to be released until the week of June 10, according to Gino J. Gemignani Jr., a Whiting-Turner vice president.
At that time, the nine competing teams will have about 120 days to submit a detailed proposal to the GSA, said David Gillece, president of Center City-Inner Harbor. No one could guess how much time the GSA might take to choose the winning proposal.
Mr. Gillece said that the Rouse team was among three finalists for the right to bid on the project. The others were Washington-based Lincoln Properties, and a joint venture of Baltimore developer Bettyjean Murphy and BPT Properties of New York.
"It was not an easy choice," Mr. Gillece said, adding that the Rouse-Whiting-Henson team was selected "largely on the strength of their presentation."
He said that the team also had knowledge and experience in the Baltimore area and a strong commitment to minority participation.
"We've made that commitment to the city, we've made that commitment to ourselves, and we believe it's very important," said Mr. Henson, a partner with developers Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse who said he is working independently of that firm on the HCFA bid.