Mayor gave his word, Angelos says Orioles owner requests go-ahead for Grand Hyatt; Hotel dispute grows; City Hall spokesman says BDC decision won't be reversed; Downtown development

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Orioles owner Peter Angelos called on Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday to honor his "personal commitment" to proceed with the proposed Grand Hyatt on city land next to the Baltimore Convention Center instead of delaying any hotel opening there until 2002.

A spokesman for the mayor said Schmoke would refuse to do so.

Angelos' comments came a day after the city's economic development agency voted to forbid the opening of any hotel on the four acres at Camden Yards until at least 2002.

The Baltimore Development Corp.'s decision Monday -- which came as the agency also voted to move forward with a competing 750-room Wyndham hotel at Inner Harbor East -- took Angelos by surprise, he said.

For the past three months, Angelos said, the mayor has repeatedly told him that the city would provide the land and allow the project to move forward quickly to provide desperately needed hotel rooms for conventioneers.

"I expect him to keep his commitment he made to me personally," Angelos said. "I would urge him to do so at once. We intend to move ahead with our plans, and we expect the mayor to move ahead with his personal commitment."

That would entail reversing the BDC's decision, however, and the mayor fully supports the agency's move and has no intention of doing so, Clinton R. Coleman, a Schmoke spokesman, said last night. "The mayor believes very strongly that the BDC made the right decisions, and he has accepted their recommendations," Coleman said.

The Hyatt proposal, filed a week ago, came amid mounting pressure on the Schmoke administration from lawmakers, business leaders and the city's convention bureau to support a hotel site closer to the center, where the publicly financed $151 million expansion and renovation was completed in April.

Angelos said he proposed the 850-room, $150 million Grand Hyatt, which would be owned by him and Hyatt Hotels Corp., primarily because of fears that the lack of a convention headquarters hotel would jeopardize the future of the center.

Schmoke's February decision to grant exclusive negotiating rights to the Wyndham team, assembled by baking mogul John Paterakis, over two developers who wanted to build closer to the center, unleashed a torrent of criticism.

After three months of negotiations, the proposed Wyndham Hotel at Inner Harbor East won approval from the city's economic development agency -- with a price $25 million higher than the original proposal and taxpayers being asked to put up an additional $15 million of the cost.

Yesterday, BDC Chairman Roger Lipitz raised the specter of the Inner Harbor East project never getting off the ground.

Lipitz, who opposed the original selection of the Inner Harbor East site because of its mile distance from the convention center, said mounting opposition could well sink the project, which seeks roughly $57 million in public subsidies, and leave Baltimore with no new hotel for five years or more.

"The decision [to subsidize Wyndham] is so controversial, I am worried whether the Wyndham will be able to get the remaining necessary approvals," Lipitz said. "If we don't get the rest of the approvals, everybody loses because we don't get any hotel up in a reasonable time."

BDC President M. J. Brodie said the board voted 7-0 to move ahead with Wyndham, after agreeing that it met eight conditions set by the agency, including parking, design changes, selection of an operator and financing.

But the decision on requesting proposals for the Camden Yards site -- and delaying the opening of any hotel there until 2002 -- came in a separate vote, with Lipitz dissenting.

Lipitz said he felt compelled to approve the Wyndham to preserve the agency's credibility among developers after months of negotiations. But he disagrees with building the hotel farthest from the convention center first, he said.

The Inner Harbor East hotel still needs approvals from the city council, state lawmakers and possibly city voters in a referendum. The project, budgeted at $112.2 million when selected for exclusive negotiating rights in late February, is now expected to cost $137.6 million.

But even with the blessing of the BDC and the mayor, the Wyndham, which would be built on the banks of the harbor south of Little Italy, still needs approval for about $38 million in bonds, $10 million in city grants, a $10 million state loan and major changes to the Inner Harbor East master plan.

The state economic development secretary, James T. Brady, said the request for a $10 million state loan, stunned him. "I am quite surprised at the magnitude of what the state commitment would be, given that this hotel is not a convention center hotel."

Pub Date: 7/02/97

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