Convention Center work draws 9 bids


Well-known architects such as Michael Graves, Richard Rogers, James Ingo Freed and Robert Frasca are among the headliners of nine groups vying for a chance to design the $125 million addition planned for the Baltimore Convention Center.

The Baltimore Convention Center Authority, a five-member state board formed to spearhead planning efforts for a 569,420-square-foot addition west of the current facility on Pratt Street, received expressions of interest from the bidders earlier this week.

The authority has appointed an eight-member advisory committee to select a design team for the addition, targeted for completion by late 1994 or early 1995.

The project's size and prominent location attracted a wide range of prospective designers, including firms responsible for most of the convention centers around the nation in recent years. All nine groups represented a mixture of local firms and out-of-state architects, but out-of-state firms would handle much of the key design work in all but one or two cases.

The bidders include groups headed by: Michael Graves Architect of Princeton, N. J.; Richard Rogers Architect of London and Baltimore in association with Grieves, Worrall, Wright, and O'Hatnick of Baltimore; Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York in association with Sulton Campbell Britt Owens and Associates and Amos & Bailey Ltd. of Baltimore; and a joint venture of RTKL Associates Inc. of Baltimore, Daniel Mann Johnson & Mendenhall of Baltimore and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Portland, Oregon.

Also, Ellerbe Becket of Washington in association with Cho, Wilks and Benn Inc. of Baltimore and SWA Group of Alexandria, Va.; the Washington office of Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum in association with Mario L. Schack of Baltimore and Whitney,

Bailey, Cox + Magnani of Baltimore; Howard Needles Tammen & Bergendoff of Boston and Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore; and Thompson Ventulett, Stainback and Associates of Atlanta and Mariani/Century of Towson and Washington, with Sulton, Campbell, Britt and Owens, and Cho Wilks and Benn.

The ninth bidder was a team made up of many of the architects and engineers who were involved in the original Convention Center, including Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet Inc. of Baltimore and Loschky Marquardt and Nesholm of Seattle.

"I'm really excited about the responses. There are some really big firms," said Wayne Chappell, executive director of the Baltimore Convention and Visitors' Association. "It's going to be difficult for the [advisory] committee to decide, but I think that's a nice problem."

For the fiscal year that began Monday, state legislators appropriated $850,000 to cover initial design fees for the Convention Center addition, with the understanding that the authority would raise another $850,000 to match the state's commitment.

Baltimore allocated $425,000 to match the state funds, and authority chairman Robert S. Hillman said he is confident that the authority will be able to raise the other $425,000 from the private sector.

The authority will present a detailed funding plan for the project during the state legislative session next year, but planners need design work to begin this summer so they will have a good idea of the project's cost by then, Mr. Hillman said.

Authority representatives will meet with leaders of the Maryland General Assembly's House and Senate budgetary committees on July 16 as part of their effort to reach agreement on a funding plan, he added.

The 115,000-square-foot Convention Center cost about $50 million when it opened in September of 1979, and it has been expanded several times since then.

The proposed addition would bring to nearly one million square feet the amount of space in the complex. In seeking bids, the Convention Center authority asked that at least 20 percent of the work go to minority-owned businesses and three percent go to women-owned businesses.

Norman Glasgow Sr., a Washington-based attorney who heads the architectural/engineering advisory committee, said the group plans to narrow the field of candidates to four and interview the finalists in mid-July.

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