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Baltimore Travel Plaza bus terminal could become conference center

After years of declining business despite its proximity to Interstate 95, the multi-bay bus terminal at the Baltimore Travel Plaza will close for good next Monday.

Greyhound Lines, the last remaining bus company to operate at the Travel Plaza on O’Donnell Street, will reroute all departures and arrivals to the company’s bus station on Haines Street, near M&T Bank Stadium, officials at the bus depot said Monday.

“The whole thing is closing,” said Janet Campbell, sales manager at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, of the bus station. “Change is needed.”

The 175-room hotel and the adjoining bus depot are owned and operated by Northstar Hotel Management, of Absecon, N.J.

Campbell said the hotel’s manager, Khaled Said, had recently made the decision to shutter the bus station and convert the space possibly into meeting rooms or a conference center for the hotel.

Said could not be reached for comment.

The tall, red brick Baltimore Travel Plaza was built on nearly 10 acres in 1987 as a multi-use development on the city’s East Side, less than one mile from I-95 and the Harbor Tunnel.

Since then, the site has been a well-worn stop for travelers and today holds a satellite location of Toby’s Dinner Theatre on the second floor of the Best Western, where eight shows a week are produced Tuesday through Sunday.

Business at the bus site has been mixed over recent years.

Four bus lines, Greyhound, Trailways, Peter Pan and Chinatown, once operated out of or near the bays there, and several restaurants were open inside a food court and mid-sized terminal. At one point, Greyhound reported it sold 79,000 tickets there per year and had 55 departures each day.

Today, only a Sbarro pizza stand and a small convenience and gift store remain open. An employee at the convenience store declined comment Monday on the bus depot closing, but one Greyhound ticket sales clerk who had worked at the Travel Plaza for 19 years, said she would be unemployed after next Monday.

Ownership of the plaza has changed many times over the years.

The development was once owned by millionaire developer and bakery mogul John Paterakis, who bought the property in 1992 from Maryland National Bank. The bank had purchased the plaza at a foreclosure auction for $2.85 million, well below the $11.9 million owned on the note. Paterakis sold the hotel in 1998.

In 2004, the site was in foreclosure and scheduled for an auction in Baltimore City Circuit Court after the new owners claimed they had lost revenue following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the time, $9.6 million was owed.

City Councilman James B. Kraft, whose First District includes the Travel Plaza, said Monday he was unaware of the bus depot’s imminent closing.

“I had heard rumors, but I didn’t know when,” Kraft said. “I do know that Khaled Said has put a lot of time and money into the Best Western Hotel, and I think he’s worked very hard to establish an identity for the hotel, separate and apart from the Travel Plaza.”

Kraft said the closing of the bus depot would not affect smaller businesses near the complex.

“I don’t know if it is going to make a difference at all,” he said, of the bus station’s closing. “It is a destination stop. People go there to catch the bus.”