Retail areas set for next phase of remodeling at Inner Harbor Light Street Pavilion, Harborplace getting brighter new look


January 06, 1998|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

By tomorrow evening, the last of the merchants at the Sam Smith Market at Harborplace will have packed up -- jewelry and sunglasses and candy and magnets -- as part of the ongoing overhaul of one of Baltimore's most popular destinations.

By April, about half of the 26 specialty boutiques on the upper level of the Light Street Pavilion expect to be back, joined by 14 new small retailers, in fresher, brighter surroundings.

The Rouse Co. began cordoning off the market yesterday to prepare for the next phase of renovations of the waterfront attraction that sparked downtown's renaissance 17 years ago. For the first time since then, both pavilions along Light and Pratt streets are getting an estimated $25 million makeover -- an attempt to boost sales and refurbish aging infrastructure.

The Light Street Pavilion's upper level, which also houses a food court, will get terra cotta and stone flooring, new lighting and signs and storefronts fashioned from mahogany and glass. Rouse, owner of the 145,000-square-foot urban mall, designed the look to blend in with similar remodeling completed on the first level last summer.

In the meantime, market merchants will either close or move to temporary quarters in Harborplace or The Gallery across Pratt Street. Only the food court will remain open during renovation of the 20,000-square-foot area, done behind walls allowing visitors a peek at construction.

American Sports Classics, one of seven merchants that will temporarily move, will sell its sports memorabilia for the next three months from a location in The Gallery.

"We've always done well here," Lee I. Sherman, president, said yesterday, while wrapping plaques in protective plastic outside his 7-year-old Sam Smith Market stall. "Harborplace is almost 18 years old and in need of rejuvenation. The plans look terrific. For us, this will be good."

For the next three months, Leslie Williams will run her astrology gift shop, Zodiac, from a cart off the food court.

"We plan to stay open," said Williams, who said that business has gone well despite construction preparations. "They'll probably move us around, but I think we're going to be fine."

But renovations can't come soon enough for Dawn St. Lawrence, manager of the Candy Candy kiosk. The New Jersey-based chain will close the Harborplace store for three months, lay off three employees and temporarily send St. Lawrence to another store, before reopening in Harborplace in April. Already, two moves because of renovations have wreaked havoc on candy sales, St. Lawrence said.

The Rouse Co. expects overall sales will increase, though it is not saying by how much, said Michael A. Gaines, Rouse vice president and Harborplace general manager. Harborplace has in the past reported generating more than $1 billion in sales and $62 million in taxes annually.

Rouse originally designed the Sam Smith market as an incubator from which craftspeople and artisans could move into ready-built storefronts with little build-out expense. With the refurbishing, the developer has opted not to renew some leases in an effort to change and update the retail mix, Gaines said.

"One of the things that's important to us is change," Gaines said, adding that the combination of long-term and short-term leases will make the market "a place where entrepreneurs can come in with a new idea."

The dozen new tenants will sell gourmet food, personalized items, toys, gifts and local goods. Returning merchants include Celebrate Baltimore, Geppi's Comics, La Mesa, Maryland Bay Co., NewsCenter and Next Stop South Pole, all of which will sell from carts during construction. Others returning in April include All Wound Up, Candy Candy, Driving Impressions, Magnet Museum, Maja Jewelry Singwear, Sunglass Hut and Spirit Bear's.

The Harborplace overhaul started with the addition of the popular Cheesecake Factory restaurant in the Pratt Street Pavilion. It has included expanded restaurant space in the Light Street Pavilion for new eateries Paolo's, now temporarily closed while expanding, and J. Paul's restaurant. And it will be complete when Planet Hollywood opens in late spring on the Pratt Street side.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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