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Baltimore BioPark begins on west side

Ehrlich, University of Maryland president Ramsay hail facility for expanding West Baltimore revitalization; O'Malley calls the project 'a generator for the city'

The groundbreaking today of the $300 million University of Maryland's (UM) BioPark represents more than just economic development to the Poppleton community west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said today.

Today's groundbreaking was for the first building in the seven-facility research center -- a six-story building with 120,000 square feet of office and laboratory space that is to be completed by early next year.

The building is to be occupied by UM, which will lease out some of its space to emerging biotechnology companies, as well as by the BioPark project's development team, headed by Townsend Capital LLC in Towson. Other primary development team members include Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Banks Contracting Co., a minority-owned firm.

About 300 people are expected to be employed in the building.

According to James L. Hughes, University of Maryland's vice president for research and development, at least 14 tenants are interested in occupying the building. Two are in advanced negotiations -- a financial-services firm and a bioscience company, Hughes said. The third prospect is a New York-based bioscience firm that is considering the UM BioPark among other sites.

In each case, Hughes declined to be more specific. "There's very strong interest in the building," he said.

Overall, the 800,000-square-foot UM BioPark is to have two parking garages on two tracts totaling eight acres along the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Baltimore St., one of which the university would have to acquire, UM officials said. On average, a new building would be completed every 18 months to 24 months, Hughes said.

The project is expected to eventually generate about $290 million in economic activity, $1.4 million in city tax revenue and 3,000 jobs, more than a third of which would be open to lower-skilled workers.