$900 Million Project Promises to Reshape Downtown Baltimore

By Adrian Maties, Associate Editor Plans proposed last fall by The Greater Baltimore Committee are gaining traction and the $900-940 million project promises to reshape the city’s downtown. The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, its attached parking lot and the 1979 wing [...]

Plans proposed last fall by The Greater Baltimore Committee are gaining traction and the $900-940 million project promises to reshape the city’s downtown. The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, its attached parking lot and the 1979 wing of the Baltimore Convention Center will be demolished to make way for a 500-room Sheraton hotel, a new four-story 760,000 sq. ft. convention center expansion and an 18,500 seat arena to replace the old 1st Mariner Arena, plus many other stores and restaurants. Also, a new waterfront park will be built at the base of Federal Hill.

At first, the cost of the entire project seemed to be an important obstacle. But on May 25, Willard Hackerman, a 92-year-old construction  magnate and the owner of the Sheraton, offered to finance and build the arena and the hotel, an estimated cost of $500 million. The remaining $400 million for the Convention Center expansion will need to be financed by Baltimore City and the State of Maryland. Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley have both given the offer a positive reception and have submitted a request to the Maryland Stadium Authority to conduct a feasibility study on the project.

It is estimated that the new building will accommodate as many as 300 new convention groups. Although hopes of attracting a new NBA franchise exist, the Greater Baltimore Commission said the arena will still make money even without a professional sports team.  A new pedestrian bridge will connect Federal Hill to Harbor East and Vegas-style water and light shows will be built around the harbor.

Considered one of the most important and expensive projects ever proposed for downtown Baltimore, it will drastically revitalize the city’s urban center, boosting the economy and creating an important number of jobs. The entire project is expected to take between four and six years to complete.