EFFORTS TO transform Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater into a $53 million performing arts center have moved ahead on several fronts this fall, as state officials approved a financing plan for the project and endorsed a proposal to give the building national landmark status.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced that he would support funding for the project during a speech last week at the annual convention of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The next step will occur during the Maryland General Assembly session that begins in January, when legislators will be asked to appropriate $11.5 million for the project, a key element in a $350 million revitalization effort for downtown Baltimore's west side.
"We have to show people that the Hippodrome is just a little piece of a larger project," said Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, the state agency taking the lead on transforming the theater. "We think it's a good project, and we're going to do everything we can to convince people to support it."
The Governor's Consulting Committee, a panel of preservation experts, voted unanimously this week to support a proposal to list the 1914 theater at 12 N. Eutaw St. on the National Register of Historic Places.
The panel also approved the nomination to the National Register of two other buildings that would be part of the Hippodrome complex, the former Eutaw Savings Bank and the former Western National Bank, also on Eutaw Street.
Baltimore's Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation will consider the nominations Nov. 9. The federal Department of the Interior is expected to consider the nominations early next year.
If the buildings are designated federal landmarks, the project would be eligible for tax credits for historic preservation to help finance the conversion.
Tax credits for historic preservation are one of several funding sources outlined in a financing plan approved Oct. 7 by the stadium authority. The funding sources include:
$3.5 million in state funds previously appropriated for the project.
$11.5 million in an additional state grant that would become available in July 2000, if approved by legislators in the spring.
$8 million from a private company that would operate the performing arts center, Theatre Management Group of Houston.
$6 million from the city of Baltimore.
$8 million from tax credits for historic preservation.
$6 million in private contributions from corporations and individual theater patrons. The Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), a nonprofit group, has hired James McGraw Jr. of KMK Consulting Co. in Cincinnati to coordinate the fund-raising effort.
$10 million from the proceeds of a state-authorized bond sale.
Plans by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates of New York and Murphy and Dittenhafer of Baltimore call for the Hippodrome to reopen as a 2,249-seat theater for Broadway-style shows and other performances.
The $53 million cost estimate includes $41.5 million for construction; $5 million for architectural and engineering services; $300,000 for legal and accounting fees; $2 million for land acquisition; and $4.2 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.
A limited-liability company would be formed to own and operate the Hippodrome. Members of the company will be a for-profit subsidiary of the stadium authority, a for-profit subsidiary of the BCPA, and the tax credit investor.
The liability company will lease the project to the BCPA or the theater operator. The operator would impose a $2 surcharge on every ticket sold to help pay the debt service on the bonds.
Hoffman noted that city and state planners can point to numerous projects that show the Hippodrome is not being launched in isolation, including a $145 million addition to the University of Maryland Medical Center and an 850-room hotel next to Oriole Park.
If funding can be secured in time, he said, the stadium authority would begin construction on the theater in mid-2000 and open it in the fall of 2002.
Governor's panel OKs historic district status
The Governor's Consulting Committee voted unanimously this week to nominate a 24-block district on downtown Baltimore's west side to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area is bounded roughly by Park Avenue and Liberty Street on the east, Baltimore Street on the south, Pearl Street on the west and Centre Street on the north. The nomination moves to U.S. Department of the Interior for consideration within the next 90 days.