Hoping to stop development of any hotel linked to the Baltimore Convention Center, the New York developer who wants to build a Westin on Pratt Street plans to offer to buy the city-owned site where Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos has proposed an 850-room Grand Hyatt.
Harvey Schulweis, whose Schulweis Realty Inc. controls the former News American site, confirmed yesterday that he plans to offer the city at least $10 million for the 4-acre Camden Yards parking lots, for which the city is seeking development proposals.
Schulweis, who has tried for months to revive a failed bid to build Baltimore's biggest hotel, would not say what he hoped to do with the land but said it would not be for a hotel. His move drew criticism from the Grand Hyatt development team and the president of the city's convention bureau, who said the city should move ahead with a headquarters hotel at the Camden Yards site.
Schulweis said the merits of the Westin surpass those of the controversial, 750-room Wyndham at Inner Harbor East, the proposal advanced by baking mogul John Paterakis Sr. which has received city Board of Estimates approval, and the 850-room Grand Hyatt that Angelos wants to build.
"The deficiencies of the Paterakis and Angelos proposals should be very obvious to people," Schulweis said. He 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.
The $132.6 million Wyndham, which seeks about $50 million in public subsidies, needs approval from the City Council and voters for bonds issued with the expectation that additional property taxes generated by the project would pay off the bonds. The $150 million Grand Hyatt also seeks such "tax-increment" bonds, but its financing package could change substantively in negotiations if it were granted development rights.
A referendum would delay the opening of either hotel until at least 2002, Schulweis said, adding: "We believe the convention center would be dead by that time."
Tom Marudas, an associate of Angelos, criticized Schulweis' latest move. "This underhanded and irresponsible approach has no place in our community," he said.
"The only purpose is to stop a convention headquarters hotel that has been supported and heralded by the experts, meeting planners and convention organizers from around the country as the one viable location in Baltimore that will directly serve and strengthen the convention center."
Schulweis has repeatedly noted that a city-commissioned hotel study by Legg Mason Realty Group Inc. said a hotel at the Camden Yards site would get a maximum of 50 percent of its business from the convention center. But the same study also ranked the Camden Yards site as the best for a convention headquarters hotel and said the News American site would generate only about 10 percent of its occupancy from the convention center, about four blocks away.
Carroll R. Armstrong, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, called on the Schmoke administration last night to move forward with development of a headquarters hotel at Camden Yards.
"Baltimore needs the headquarters hotel in close proximity to that convention center, preferably connected by a walkway," Armstrong said. "There is an opportunity now with the current site being considered [at Camden Yards] to bring that to fruition, and I hope we as a city recognize what's at stake here and don't play games regarding moving forward as quickly as possible."
Pub Date: 8/07/97