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$25 million children's museum may get the Disney touch

The Walt Disney Co. doesn't create freestanding children's museums in urban centers, but Baltimore may get the next closest thing.

An affiliate of Walt Disney Imagineering, the Disney subsidiary that creates many of the exhibits at Disney World and other Disney theme parks, is vying to design exhibits for the $25 million children's museum planned for the former Fishmarket entertainment complex downtown.

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The Bran Ferren Group, an Academy Award-winning firm that was acquired by Disney Imagineering in 1993, is one of seven finalists competing to design the Baltimore children's museum. The 14-year-old company, based in Wainscott, N.Y., already is designing exhibits for the Columbus Center under construction on Piers 5 and 6.

Other finalists for the exhibit design commission are Edwin Schlossberg Inc. and Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, both of New York; Sussman/Prejza & Co. of Culver City, Calif.; Joseph A. Wetzel Associates Inc. of Boston; Gary King and Ardice Faoro of Ellicott City; and Lord Cultural Resources of Tallahassee, Fla.

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The finalists were announced yesterday as part of an effort by the museum to assemble the design and construction management team needed to transform the former nightclub complex into a one-of-a-kind attraction that will draw 400,000 people a year to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The museum is expected to open inside the former wholesale fish market on Market Place by late 1996.

More than 65 firms expressed interest in working for the museum in some capacity. The museum board, which is working with the Rouse Co., plans to select its consultants by Jan. 18.

Janet Marie Smith, chairman of the museum's consultant selection committee, said she was delighted with the responses. "These are all high quality candidates, and they all have very different interpretations" of what can be done.

"We were especially impressed with the number of submittals that . . . showed the candidates understand that we're looking for a team not only to renovate an historic building but to revitalize an historic street in downtown Baltimore," Ms. Smith added.

The six architects on the short list are: Cho, Wilks & Benn of Baltimore; Murphy & Dittenhafer of Baltimore; Schwartz/Silver of Boston; Polshek and Partners of New York; Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer of New York; and Scogin Elam and Bray of Atlanta.

Finalists in the construction management category are: Barton Malow Co.; Oak Contracting Corp.; McDevitt Street Bovis; J. Vinton Schafer & Sons; and a joint venture of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and Essex Construction.

So fierce was the competition that many top designers did not make the short list. Among the architects who submitted their credentials but will not even be invited for an interview are Robert Venturi, Peter Bohlin, James Wines, Paul Segal and George Notter.


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