WHILE BALTIMORE has been aswirl with news about competing mega-hotels and downtown office towers that would rise 30 stories or more, two nonprofit organizations from New York are quietly making progress on a smaller but important office project overlooking the Inner Harbor.
After months of design and planning, Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are preparing to begin construction by summer on a six-level office building in the 700 block of Light St. that will serve as the groups' new international headquarters.
Representatives for the Lutheran organizations released computer renderings that indicate the building will rise south of Harbor Apartments on Light Street, on a lot owned by Christ Lutheran Church.
Baltimore's Architectural Review Board last month saw the latest plans for the building, which call for it to be separated from the apartments by about 20 feet.
The project has drawn criticism from some South Baltimore residents, who have expressed concerns that it will be out of scale with the three-story rowhouses nearby and add to parking problems in the area.
In response, the architects shortened the building by 15 feet and separated it from the nearest houses as much as possible, with a plaza in between. They also created an underground garage with space for more than a dozen cars.
The design team includes Gwathmey Siegel & Associates of New York and Marks Thomas and Associates of Baltimore. The general contractor is Bovis Inc.
Although the Lutheran center will not be connected to the neighboring Harbor Apartments building, from certain angles it will look like an appendage to it -- a caboose at the end of a long train.
Architect Charles Gwathmey said the building was designed to be a new southern end to the apartments, which always presented a blank face to South Baltimore.
"I think what it does, in a very sensitive and responsible way, is it terminates a building that has no end," he said.
Gwathmey added that the building has been designed so each side is different. Proposed exterior materials include brick, aluminum, glass and cast stone.
Within the immediate area, buildings have been constructed "at a lot of different scales," he said. "The hope is that a strong work of architecture would tend to anchor it and stabilize it."
At community meetings, some residents of nearby Hughes Street have said they prefer the blank concrete wall of the existing apartment building to the office tower's glass windows, because they don't want office workers peering into their homes from above.
Lutheran representatives say the office occupants typically will not be there at night and on weekends, when South Baltimore residents are most likely to be home.
Height comparisons for downtown Baltimore
Although the six-story height of the Lutheran headquarters is controversial to some, it is nowhere near the height of several other buildings proposed for downtown Baltimore in recent weeks.
The latest height of the 750-room Wyndham hotel is 31 stories -- 26 floors of guest rooms above a five-story base. A hotel, office and retail complex planned for the Southern Hotel site would rise 34 stories. The Grand Hyatt hotel planned near Camden Station would be 22 stories high. And the 600-room Westin Hotel proposed for the former News American site would be 32 stories high -- 28 floors of guest rooms above a four-level base.
Baltimore will pay for Hamburger's demolition
How did Baltimore attorney and Orioles majority owner Peter G. Angelos, one of the wealthiest men in Maryland, get city government to pay for demolition of the Hamburger's clothing store building that he bought at Charles and Fayette streets? He donated it to the city for $1.
The city's Department of Public Works began dismantling the section of the Hamburger's building that spans Fayette Street in January. The project is expected to take several months and cost taxpayers $750,000.
The Hamburger's building was next to One Charles Center, the office tower that houses Angelos' law offices. The city was willing to accept the donation and take the lead on the demolition because the city controls air rights above Fayette Street and removing the vacant building improves the surrounding area, said Public Works Department spokesman Kurt L. Kocher.
Pub Date: 3/05/98