BALTIMORE-Development of a 750-room Hilton Hotel that would anchor the Baltimore Convention Center edges closer toward realization now that the city’s Design Advisory Panel has signed off on plans for the $200-million endeavor. RLJ Development and Quadrangle Development Corp. are spearheading the public-private project that is expected to increase tourism in the area and bolster lackluster activity near the convention center, which underwent a $151-million expansion and upgrade a few years ago.

And while the 1.2-million-sf center is surrounded by a slew of lodging options–such as the 337-room Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and the 486-room Hyatt Regency Baltimore–it is lacking a headquarters hotel. The project, designed by RTKL Associates Inc., is being financed through tax-exempt bonds.

Attaining the thumbs up from the Design Advisory Panel was no easy feat. Panel members had concerns about, among other things, the bridge that will adjoin the convention center to the Hilton and space for a possible high-speed train station below the hotel. When all is said and done, the property will have about 62,000 sf of meeting and event space, a 1,000-car underground parking facility, as well as ground-level retail space.

While the panel’s approval is a big step, there are still hoops to be jumped through before further progress can be made; namely, specific architectural details and costs have to be approved. However, if all goes as planned, RLJ and Quadrangle will break ground on the project within a year and wrap up construction in the spring of 2007.

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