Chilling proposal for downtown businesses; Officials to announce plan for air-conditioning plant


With hopes of helping to attract development to Baltimore, plans will be announced this morning to expand the availability of air-conditioning to downtown buildings and shops -- including those in the proposed 18-square-block West Side redevelopment area.

Officials of Comfort Link, a partnership between Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Monumental Investment Corp., said a new $11 million facility at Saratoga and Eutaw streets would allow the company to expand its cold-water chilling system for air-conditioning beyond the immediate downtown area.

The officials are touting the project as the first private-sector infrastructure investment in the downtown Howard Street corridor in at least two decades -- and an improvement that could significantly lower costs for construction or for renovations to older properties such as the Hippodrome Theater.

Company officials will join Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at Ravens Stadium at 10: 30 a.m. today to formally announce plans for the Market Center Chiller Station, which is expected to be operational by September.

"We're building on Baltimore's past to build its future," Comfort Link President Stanley Gent said in a statement on the project. "When complete, the Comfort Link system will save downtown businesses more than $36 million just in capital funding, $10 million of which will be in the West Side redevelopment area."

The chiller stations make up to 1 million pounds of ice each night, when electric rates are lowest, to cool water.

The chilled water is then pumped through underground pipes to commercial buildings during the day for air-conditioning use, before being circulated back to the plants.

Comfort Link opened a distribution center at the Baltimore Convention Center in 1996 that chills water for office buildings at the Inner Harbor. By using the system, companies can avoid having to install pumps and cooling towers, Gent said.

The plant, which will employ 20 people, will allow for the extension of distribution lines east on Lombard Street to Gay Street and as far west as Baltimore Street at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

In June, the city joined downtown business leaders in announcing a $350 million renovation plan for an 18-square-block region of downtown that will link Charles Center, the Inner Harbor and the University of Maryland, at Baltimore.

The City Council introduced a bill in December to condemn 127 downtown properties that are expected to be used to lure development to the city.

BGE's partner in Comfort Link, Monumental Investment Corp., is the parent company of Poole & Kent, one of the nation's largest mechanical contractors.

Pub Date: 1/25/99

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