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USF&G; plans expansion in Mount Washington


USF&G; Corp. yesterday unveiled a plan to develop additional office and parking structures at its Mount Washington campus, its first action concerning future space needs since deciding in January to move its corporate headquarters out of downtown.

Under the insurer's preliminary proposal, five new projects would be developed on the 72-acre campus to accommodate employees scheduled to relocate there by 1997, according to plans presented by USF&G; at a public hearing at Mount Washington.

The new developments include three multilevel parking garages, a retail and mixed-use building, and a new office building on the site of a surface parking lot. Two of the parking garages also would supplant existing surface parking.

Of the five projects, it is expected that the first to be developed would be a multilevel garage replacing a surface lot adjacent to USF&G;'s data processing center.

The package of new projects is expected to create necessary infrastructure and amenities within the company-owned campus, which contains five buildings and 565,000 square feet.

As part of the plan, USF&G; also would expand its training and development center. Roughly 1,260 USF&G; employees work at the Mount Washington campus.

The public hearing followed by a week meetings between USF&G; and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke on the matter. Before any new development, the company would need approvals from both county and city, since the campus straddles the two jurisdictions.

"I think we'll appropriately deal with traffic and other concerns that are brought up, and I'm impressed at how USF&G; wants to work with the existing business community in Mount Washington," Mr. Ruppersberger said.

The county executive said officials there have just begun to study the proposal, and he could not say when a decision on the approvals would be made.

Kerrie Burch-DeLuca, a USF&G; spokeswoman, said the company has yet to determine either the cost, approximate size or a timetable for the projects.

They will be developed in phases "as business conditions dictate," the company said.

The hearing represented USF&G;'s first public discussion of its space needs following its decision in January to relocate from its 35-story tower downtown because of excessive costs.

USF&G;, which is paying more than twice the market rate for a majority of the 530,000-square-foot skyscraper, took a $190 million charge against earnings in the fourth quarter of last year to cover its lease costs through the year 2009.

"We're planning for our future," USF&G; Chairman and Chief Executive Norman P. Blake Jr. said in a prepared statement.

"Approvals will allow us to grow our operations well into the next century."

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