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BCCC ends negotiations over Inner Harbor campus

Negotiations with developer David Cordish to redevelop the Inner Harbor campus of the Baltimore City Community College — one of the city’s prime real estate parcels — have come to a halt because Cordish said his company declined to consider relocating the Holocaust Memorial at the site.

The college’s Board of Trustee had been in exclusive negotiations with The Cordish Cos. since July 2010 to redevelop the Bard Building at 600 E. Lombard St. The large, modern structure once housed classrooms at BCCC and is now vacant.

The trustees said in a statement Wednesday that they had canceled a request for proposals to redevelop the site and would instead “pursue other opportunities as the economy dictates.”

Cordish company executives released a statement saying the deal failed after they disagreed with plans to seek to move the Holocaust Memorial as a precondition to the redevelopment. The memorial was dedicated in 1988, redesigned in 1995 and rededicated in 1997. It is on land owned by BCCC.

“We could not reach an agreement as to basic terms for the site and we decided to move on,” the statement, issued by a development partnership of Cordish, A&R Cos. and Banks Contracting Co. Inc., said. “We respectfully disagreed with the Baltimore City Community College’s decision that the Jewish community be required to relocate the Holocaust Memorial as a precondition to developing the Bard building site.

“We believe the Bard building site should be immediately developed on its own without any linkage to the Holocaust Memorial,” the statement continued. “We wish the Baltimore City Community College the best of luck in attempting to develop the site. … We believe it is imperative for the city that the vacated Bard building be developed in a first-class manner as soon as possible to strengthen the core of the central business district.”

Terms of the exclusive negotiations between the BCCC board and Cordish executives were set to expire April 30.

The BCCC Bard Building site was one of several locations considered for an Exelon Corp. building after the Chicago-based energy giant’s takeover of Constellation Energy Group. Exelon ultimately chose Harbor Point near Fells Point for its planned $120 million, 22-story local office.

At the time, officials had talked about the possibility of relocating the Holocaust Memorial, to create a larger development parcel for Exelon.

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, a nonprofit business advocacy group, said he planned to contact the BCCC board about the future of the site.

“I don’t want to forego other opportunities at the site,” Fowler said, adding that the state, which owns the land, would “want a good return on its investment.”

“The Bard Building is obsolete and antiquated, but it sits on a premier site one block off of the waterfront,” Fowler said. “Judging from the (height of) other buildings that surround it, it would be easy to have a new building there with water views.”

The administration at BCCC has undergone turmoil over the past two years.

In mid-2011, the college was placed on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for a lack of controls over student achievement, which followed a vote by the faculty of no confidence in President Carolane Williams’ leadership of the two-year college. Gov. Martin O’Malley last year revamped the board of trustees by appointing five new members of the nine-member panel.

Six months ago, the new board voted to extend the negotiations with Cordish for the redevelopment of the Bard Building through the end of this month “in order to review and evaluate the level of progress toward agreement on a development plan,” according to the board’s statement issued Wednesday.

“However, after careful deliberation,” the statement continued, “the Board decided to cancel the request for proposals. Our progress in this development project has been impeded to a considerable extent by unforeseen circumstances; the impact of the recession being chief among them.”

The statement added: “Although BCCC has not yet identified the ideal development solution that will maximize the property’s economic potential, the board of trustees is committed to ensuring that development of the site produces sustainable revenues for the college, while also maintaining and promoting a vibrant, thriving Inner Harbor.

“We are very mindful of how long this exploration has taken. But we owe it to our students—and indeed all BCCC stakeholders—not to settle for anything less than a development project that will yield the maximum financial benefit for the college and its educational mission.”