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If they could do it for the new ballpark, why not the police headquarters, too?

That was part of the rationale articulated yesterday by members of Baltimore's Architectural and Engineering Awards Commission as they announced their first choice for a design team to take charge of a $32 million renovation and expansion of the city police headquarters.

Their choice: a joint venture of RCG Inc. of Baltimore and Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) of Washington, a division of the firm that designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Meeting one day after the All-Star Game put Camden Yards in a national spotlight, the panel members stressed that it was just a coincidence that HOK happened to be on the team they recommended.

Since opening last year, the ballpark has gotten rave reviews for its intimate, traditional setting.

Noting that HOK designed the ballpark, panelist F. Barton Harvey Sr. said he hoped the police headquarters would fit in as well with its surroundings as the ballpark does.

Mr. Harvey did not mention that his daughter-in-law, Janet Marie Smith, is the Orioles vice president for stadium planning and development. She worked with HOK designers from Kansas City to make sure the ballpark design turned out as well as possible.

"We're very proud of it," said HOK senior principal James Kessler. "It fits in well with the city and the buildings around it. That's our approach to the annex as well."

The project involves renovating the 11-story police headquarters to replace a defective mechanical system. It also includes construction of a five-level, 100,000-square-foot addition east of the building at 601 E. Fayette St.

HOK also designed a new public safety center for Raleigh, N.C.; a police headquarters for Santa Ana, Calif.; the "Supermax" prison in Baltimore; and the $45 million Baltimore Central Intake Facility under construction in East Baltimore.

Work on the police headquarters is scheduled to begin next spring and to be completed in phases by July 1997, project coordinator David Mitchell said.

He said the recommendation means that the city will negotiate a pact with HOK and RCG so that design work can begin this summer. If they can't reach an accord, he said, the city will negotiate with the panel's second choice, Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore. Zeidler Roberts Partnership was ranked third among seven finalists.

City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean said she was not originally in favor of hiring HOK, ballpark or no, because it has no local office.

"Washington, D.C., is going to get all our money, our taxpayer dollars?" she asked at one point.

Later, she said she felt better when she heard that HOK's partner was based in Baltimore, along with some of its subcontractors. But she still asked HOK to consider opening an office here.

"Our heart is here," Mr. Kessler said.

"We want your money here, too," Mrs. McLean replied.


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