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State extends time for planning medical trade mart


State officials have agreed to give a development group headed by Richard Swirnow more time to firm up plans for a $600 million medical trade mart and conference center in downtown Baltimore.

Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium ++ Authority, said yesterday that he had met with representatives of the state's Department of Transportation this week to discuss the project, and the group's consensus was to grant an extension.

The previous deadline, Aug. 2, was set by state officials last fall when they selected the Swirnow group over several other bidders to develop property east and north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Representatives of the Swirnow group asked this month that the exclusive negotiating period be extended so that they could continue planning.

The state property includes the air rights over the train tracks just east of the B&O; warehouse, the south end of the warehouse and the interior of Camden Station.

The negotiating privilege was awarded by the Stadium Authority and the Transportation Department as part of an effort to generate development that would create revenue for the state and help defray the cost of the ballpark.

Mr. Hoffman said state officials favor an extension because the 2.5-million-square-foot project is important for the city and state. He indicated that state officials are considering granting a six-month extension but want to consult with Gov. William Donald Schaefer and city officials.

In the meantime, he said, planning will continue for the project, called the International Life Sciences Center. Mr. Swirnow and -- attorney Frank Wise said they think a six-month extension would allow their group to finish planning.

The medical mart is conceived of as a permanent showcase for manufacturers and distributors of medical equipment and supplies, and would include a conference center for medical groups and a 1,000-room hotel.

In addition to the local partnership headed by Mr. Swirnow, the development team includes Parkway Holdings Ltd. of Singapore. The same team is building the $600 million HarborView condominium complex in South Baltimore.

In conjunction with the state property negotiations, city officials have given Mr. Swirnow's group rights to develop the block bounded by Pratt, Camden, Howard and Eutaw streets, and the air space over a proposed $150 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center at Pratt and Sharp streets.

City officials say they will work closely with the developers because the medical mart is a key part of the Schmoke administration's strategy of making Baltimore a center for the life sciences.

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