Convention Center architects to start design work


Even though they don't have a contract, architects for the proposed $150 million expansion of Baltimore's Convention Center began design work on the project this week, saying they wanted to meet a mid-January deadline to arrive at a preliminary design.

The design team, a group headed by Cochran Stephenson and Donkervoet of Baltimore and Loschky Marquardt & Nesholm of Seattle, began its work even though the state's Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has not agreed to release up to $850,000 in state funds that were previously appropriated to pay for the job.

Representatives of the Convention Center Authority, the agency planning the expansion, say $425,000 has been allocated for the design project by the city and another $425,000 has been committed by a private developer, a group headed by Richard Swirnow. But they say no money can be paid until a contract is negotiated and approved by the Board of Public Works.

Architect George Loschky said the designers decided to begin work without a contract because they were optimistic that one would be approved and that sufficient funds would be authorized.

The design team is aiming to have a preliminary design by mid-January so it will have firm estimates of the expansion's cost to present to the General Assembly when it reconvenes.

A move to release the state funds failed on a 5-5 vote of the Senate committee last month, after members questioned launching such a large project with the state's fiscal problems. Backers of the expansion say it will help bring business to the state and generate new taxes. They have asked the Senate committee to take another vote.

The architects kicked off their work by scheduling meetings with people who know about the current facility at Pratt and Sharp streets and the proposed expansion site just west of it.

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