Aiming to revive a failed bid to build Baltimore's biggest hotel on a parking lot across from Harborplace, the Westin chain teamed yesterday with the neighboring Renaissance in an agreement that would link the two hotels by enclosed walkway and jointly market them.
At the same time, Schulweis Realty Inc., the Westin project developer that controls the former News American site on Pratt Street, told city officials that it could open its 44-story hotel faster than competitors, with millions less in public money and no need for a voter referendum.
Under an agreement between the Westin development group and Marriott International Inc., which owns the 622-room Renaissance, the two hotels would be linked by enclosed walkway across South Street at the ballroom level and combine their marketing efforts to lure business and leisure travelers.
Harvey Schulweis, who heads Schulweis Realty, said he's confident that the 800-room Westin would be built, despite losing out in February to John Paterakis Sr.'s plan for a heavily subsidized Wyndham Hotel at Inner Harbor East. "I believe the process will eventually come to grips with the deficiencies of Inner Harbor East -- the distance from the convention center, the cost to the public and the timing of the opening," Schulweis said.
The Westin bid comes as the mayor-controlled Board of Estimates prepares to review the controversial, 750-room Wyndham at Inner Harbor East, a mile from the expanded Baltimore Convention Center.
Sources said the city hopes to reach agreement on the Wyndham to get a contract to the board by tomorrow. Negotiations hit a snag last week primarily over whether Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos could open a Grand Hyatt Hotel, linked by walkway to the convention center, before 2002. Throughout negotiations, the Wyndham development group had insisted on delaying a competing hotel that would be built on city-owned land for at least five years.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the Wyndham, the project faces huge obstacles. It seeks some $50 million in taxpayer-financed subsidy and needs approvals from the City Council and voters in a November 1998 election. That could delay its opening well past the promised 2000, until at least 2002.
For his part, Schulweis said the Westin could open by fall 1999, because the development is ready to move immediately with city approval, and no voter referendum would be necessary. (Wyndham would require the referendum for $17.5 million worth of bonds issued with the expectation that additional property taxes generated by the project would pay off the bonds.)
Pub Date: 7/22/97