An artist’s rendering of the stalled redevelopment design for State Center, via Profiles

Instead of having a grocery store and housing and offices, the State Center redevelopment area may one day have a sports arena.

The Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday approved a request to conduct a “site assessment and development study” to determine whether an arena should be built on the publicly owned land known as State Center.

The vote comes two and a half months after Gov. Larry Hogan, state Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted at a Board of Public Works meeting to rescind leases and withdraw support for a $1.5 million mixed-use development on the 28-acre State Center property.

Franchot suggested at the public works meeting that the land be considered for a multi-purpose arena similar to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and Hogan said he would ask the stadium authority to study the idea on a “fast track” basis.

At the meeting yesterday, Maryland Stadium Authority Executive Director Michael Frenz and Assistant Vice President for Capital Projects Al Tyler said the study would cost about $30,000 and be led by Crossroads Consulting of Tampa, Fla. They said the study could begin within 30 to 35 days and be complete within several months.

“It’s an assessment of the site to accommodate an arena,” said stadium authority board chairman Thomas Kelso. “The funding for this will come from the Department of General Services. We’re just being asked to conduct the work.”

City and state officials have had discussions for years about possible ways to build an arena to replace the aging Royal Farms Arena at 201 W. Baltimore Street downtown. One idea called for expanding the Baltimore Convention Center and constructing a hybrid arena and convention facility where the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel is now.

State Center is bounded roughly by Howard Street to the east, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the south, and the Bolton Hill and Madison Park neighborhoods on the north and west. The state’s light rail line and the Metro subway line serve the area, making it a logical site for transit-oriented development.

The cancelled development plan called for the State Center area to be rebuilt in phases to contain 2,000 residences, two million square feet of office space and room for retailers, such as a full-service grocery store.

Frenz said the new study will consist of two parts: analyzing the site to determine whether it is suitable for an arena and contacting developers and other stakeholders to find out what other development ideas they might have for State Center.

Board member Leonard Attman asked whether the study will include looking at other sites for an arena. He was told this study will only look at options for State Center.

Developers of the State Center project say they still would like to move ahead with their project and have asked Hogan to meet with them. They also are parties in a lawsuit that is expected to go to court later this year.

This story has been corrected to reflect that the developers of State Center did not sue the State of Maryland, but rather have responded to a lawsuit filed initially by the state.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

One reply on “With $1.5 Billion Redevelopment Plan Canceled, State Center to be Studied for an Arena”

  1. That erroneous rendering of the Howard Street light rail typifies the crazy hype on the State Center Project. Howard Street will not be narrowed to one or two lanes adjacent to State Center as shown here. Howard will actually carry a greater share of the area’s traffic than it does now because its intersection with MLK Boulevard is to be redesigned to feed it more directly.

    For many years, the City has declined to install a crosswalk or make pedestrian improvements to facilitate pedestrian crossing to the Preston Street sidewalk next to the Armory (shown here to the right) and feeding the subway entrance just beyond to the west. Nothing will change in the future to make it more feasible than it is now.

    As for a new arena, the first decision must be whether to build it and how to pay for it. Then the various alternative sites can be compared and one can be selected. My simple preference is Camden Yards just north of the Ravens Stadium.

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