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Medical trade center could double in size Developers seek land for expansion


The development team planning a $600 million medical trade mart and conference center in downtown Baltimore may need twice as much land as it originally sought for the project, its chief local representative indicated yesterday.

Baltimore businessman Richard Swirnow told a meeting of the Downtown Partnership that his team, Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd., would like the rights to develop the city-owned blocks bounded by Paca, Pratt, Howard and Camden streets -- land that was partially earmarked for an office building that never materialized.

He said the group also would still like permission to develop the air rights over the train tracks east of Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- a 6.5-acre strip that the Stadium Authority awarded to the medical mart team two years ago -- and the air rights over the proposed $150 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center.

"It is not one site over the other. We need the opportunity for expansion," Mr. Swirnow said in response to a question about the trade mart, called the International Life Sciences Center.

"If we don't have expansion opportunities," he explained, "we will not be able to move forward with inducing foreign dollars to invest in our community."

The 2.5 million-square-foot medical mart has been conceived as a permanent showcase for manufacturers and distributors of medical equipment and supplies. Expected to draw 2,000 visitors a day, it would also include a conference and educational center for medical groups, a library, medical museum and 1,000-room hotel.

The development team is a joint venture of The Swirnow Group of Baltimore and Parkway Holdings Ltd. of Singapore. The same partners are building the $600 million HarborView condominium complex in South Baltimore.

Mr. Swirnow's remarks represent the strongest sign to date that his group would like to take control of the block previously reserved for a $120 million headquarters of the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), the block bounded by Camden, Paca, Pratt and Eutaw streets.

After evaluating sites in downtown Baltimore and the Woodlawn section of Baltimore County, federal officials earlier this year opted to build in the county.

Michael Seipp, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said his agency has had discussions with Mr. Swirnow's group about the HCFA site. But he said the property has not been made available to the medical mart team or anyone else, in part because the city has not officially concluded negotiations with the federal government regarding the HCFA bid.

Mr. Seipp explained that the site selection process has not been played out fully, from the city's point of view, because the federal government has not responded to final appeals. Mr. Seipp added that the Schmoke administration is highly supportive of the medical mart concept and wants to see it succeed.

Mr. Swirnow said yesterday that if the HCFA site and the block east of it became available for development, he would prefer to use them to build the initial phases of the medical mart, rather than the air rights over the train tracks.

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