Power Plant ideas go up to bat today


Pitching urban entertainment featuring attractions such as high-tech, virtual reality games, comedy clubs, theaters, restaurants and stores, three developers hoping to recharge the cavernous Power Plant will formally present proposals today.

The Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, and an appointed advisory panel will hear 45-minute presentations from developers vying to become the Pier 4 brick complex's first occupant in five years.

The BDC is to recommend one of the proposals to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is expected to select one by early November.

Today's presentations will give the developers a final chance to bolster the cases they made in formal proposals filed last month, while fielding questions from BDC staff and the review panel.

These are the contenders hoping to move into the 106,000-square-foot complex:

* The Baltimore-based Cordish Co., led by developer David Cordish, envisions virtual reality games and multimedia theater and exhibits, along with more traditional entertainment, at the proposed $18 million "Metropolis at the Power Plant." Attractions would include cabaret theater, a dinner theater and comedy club, a major themed restaurant such as a Hard Rock Cafe and huge retail stores such as Nike Town and Borders Books and Music.

* Great Britain's Grandname Ltd. proposes the $18.6 million "European Experience," featuring virtual reality journeys through 15 European countries, with rides simulating skiing in the Alps, fishing in the Mediterranean, flying a balloon over a provincial town square. Ethnic foods would be sold in each country's exhibit, or customers could dine at a seafood restaurant, also to be used for receptions, special events and exhibitions.

* Pier Group Partners Ltd., a local group of investors, would rely on simulation and virtual reality technologies to simulate sports including hockey, baseball, downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and sky diving. The $30 million project also would feature a 1,200-seat arena showcasing professional athletes, sports clinics, seminars and live sports exhibitions and a banquet hall for gatherings of up to 2,500 guests.

Leslie Howard, the BDC project manager overseeing the process, praised all three proposals, saying they appeared to meet initial criteria calling for a family-oriented entertainment use compatible with existing attractions.

Unlike some past proposals, he said, all three seemed to have solid financial backing.

Other factors to be weighed include interior and exterior design plans and minority participation, Mr. Howard said.

"The project selected should provide a major new attraction to the general public," he said. "It should be complementary to other major attractions on the Inner Harbor and avoid any great overlap. It should provide a high level of use year-round and during evenings and weekends."

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