The city does a cool bit of business


Baltimore air conditioning provider Comfort Link will build its third cooling facility on city-owned land and expand its reach to the east side of Baltimore, the city and company said yesterday.

Comfort Link, a joint venture of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and contractor Poole & Kent, was chosen by the city from three bids. The $13 million facility is expected to be completed in a year to 15 months on the city property, a small parking lot at Baltimore and Gay streets used primarily by city police.

Once it's running, the facility and two others already operating in the city should be able to provide air conditioning to 18 million square feet of space. The system employs giant tanks in which water is frozen overnight and then allowed to melt during the day when it is pumped into its customers' buildings through pipes.

Officials said the major benefit of the chilled-water system is that it cheaper than conventional cooling systems. "This will put the city at an economic development advantage," said Larry S. Shannahan, Comfort Link's director of business development.

Shannahan said utility costs represent a significant portion of building owners' costs. While the cooling bills should be lower, most of the savings to the owners comes up front because the chilled water cuts capital investment in a new system. He estimated that by installing his equipment, which is leased, owners developing a building or overhauling the air conditioning system could save at least 10 percent.

Comfort Link's two other air conditioning operations - at the Convention Center and at Saratoga and Eutaw streets - serve customers including the center, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Harborplace.

To connect new customers, Comfort Link will need to tear up roads surrounding the new facility, near Power Plant Live and The Block.

M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said the city expects to take in approximately $100,000 a year from rent and taxes on the facility.

Other proposals were for a $6.2 million, 337-car parking garage by Orion Development and a $16 million chilled water plant and 200-car garage by Comfort Link and the Cordish Co.

"They were more complex to implement," Brodie said. "Besides that, Comfort Link's project would be privately financed, this seemed imminently do-able, with no physical or financial obstacles."

The other projects called for more land, which would have meant relocating government offices and businesses, he said.

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