20-story tower on west side proposed; Developers vie to build apartments opposite Hippodrome


Developers want to build a 20-story apartment tower with a swimming pool, restaurants, plaza and fountain facing the renovated Hippodrome Theater as part of a $350 million revitalization of the west side of downtown.

The proposal by A & R Development Corp. and Southern Management Corp. would create shops and outdoor cafes where patrons could relax before and after shows at the vaudeville-era theater, which is slated to be renovated and reopened.

"Our vision is to extend the city's night life beyond the Inner Harbor and really enliven the west side of downtown," said Tony Rodgers, development manager for the Baltimore development firm.

The company was one of three submitting proposals for the block opposite the Hippodrome to the city's economic development arm, the Baltimore Development Corporation.

The BDC plans to study the proposals, select one by November and create a site for the project by purchasing 25 buildings in a one-block square bounded by Baltimore, Howard, Eutaw and Fayette streets, according to development officials.

This block is considered crucial to the city's planned redevelopment of an 18-block area surrounding the struggling Howard Street retail corridor.

Tyler Gearhart, director of Preservation Maryland, said he's glad the A & R Development proposal would save many of the historically significant buildings on the block, including the Paramount Hotel and the Equitable Life Society Building.

But Gearhart added that the project would still require the demolition of a row of stores along Eutaw Street, including Sunny's Surplus. And he said he's concerned that the height of the 250-foot tower could overshadow smaller buildings in the neighborhood.

"I think this could be devastating. The construction could mean massive chaos for the shoppers in the area and put a lot of merchants out of business," said Judy Boulmetis, co-owner of the 70-year-old Hippodrome Hatters shop at 15 N. Eutaw St.

The building where the shop is located would be demolished for the project.

Bryce A. Turner, an architect with Brown & Craig of Baltimore who is working on the project, said Hippodrome Hatters could rent a street-level shop in the new retail and office complex.

"I think Hippodrome Hatters would fit in perfectly with what we're planning, and it would be great to have them back," Turner said.

The other two developers submitting proposals for the block opposite the Hippodrome are Home Properties of Rochester, N.Y., and a branch of the Bank of America based in Baltimore.

Home Properties, working with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse of Baltimore, has drawn up plans to build 187 apartments, a 600-car garage, offices for new high-tech companies, stores and a multicultural performing arts center, said Ed Hord, a director in the architecture firm of Hord Coplan & Macht of Baltimore, which is also a partner in the project.

This proposal would not include a tower, but instead would include the renovation of many of the shops on the block facing the Hippodrome, Hord said.

Bank of America officials declined to release their proposal yesterday, but a spokeswoman, Terri Bolling, said it would involve a mixture of apartments and shops.

The A & R Development project, called "Eutaw Square," would feature an apartment tower rising from the center of a block of traditional-looking brick storefronts.

The building would be one of the tallest on the west side of downtown, about 50 feet shorter than the Bromo Seltzer building across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, according to the designers.

The project would preserve at least the front portions of all of the architecturally significant buildings on the block, demolishing 12 of the 25 existing stores and offices.

The 1907 Paramount Hotel on Howard Street, the oldest continually operating hotel in the city, would remain but be converted into a 117-unit "corporate suites" hotel, catering to traveling consultants who need to rent a room for two or three months.

The developers also would preserve the Equitable Life Society Building at the corner of Eutaw and Fayette streets, the facade of the Town Theater on West Fayette Street, and all but a rear portion of a pair of cast-iron store buildings on West Baltimore Street.

Rising above the renovated buildings would be a rectangular, 16-story, sandstone tower with 342 apartments, a fitness center and 600 parking spaces beneath it.

The whole complex would have 68,000 square feet of offices and shops catering to the graduate students and young professionals at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore.

A preliminary sketch shows sportswear shops, a bookstore, wine shop, gourmet deli, convenience store, cleaners and restaurants clustered around an outdoor brick plaza with a fountain, trees and benches.

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