Planet Baltimore Restaurant: Will Smith breaks ice and ground for a Planet Hollywood at the Inner Harbor.

January 22, 1998|By Edward Gunts and Tamara Ikenberg | Edward Gunts and Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's Harborplace pavilions became Hollywood-place yesterday as movie fans and paparazzi gathered to watch actor and rapper Will Smith break ground for the newest Planet Hollywood restaurant.

As part of the noontime ceremony, Smith, a Philadelphia native, was made an honorary citizen of Baltimore by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's chief of staff, Lynnette Young.

The 29-year-old star of "Independence Day" and "Men in Black" married a Baltimore native, actress Jada Pinkett, on New Year's Eve at the Cloisters estate in Baltimore County. With his honorary-citizen certificate in hand, he told the crowd at Harborplace that he's just as entitled to the new Planet Hollywood as she is.

"I'm from here too!" he joked. "I get a vote!"

Smith has been in the area filming "Enemy of the State" since early November. The former star of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" was dressed in black, with a bulky silver necklace and Planet Hollywood leather jacket.

He charmed the crowd and clowned, mugging with a silly dance move and calling out to his fans.

"How many people are supposed to be at work?" he asked the crowd, which included reporters from E! Entertainment Television and Access Hollywood. Smith shared the spotlight with Kathy Schmoke, the mayor's daughter; Young; Brian Woods, president of Planet Hollywood; and Anthony Hawkins, vice president and group director of the Rouse Company, the developer of Harborplace.

After the ceremony, the 29-year-old actor pressed down the vTC handle on the groundbreaking explosives, setting off fireworks and a fountain of confetti.

"That was a little more than I expected," he said.

Smith is one of more than 50 celebrities who have an ownership interest in Planet Hollywood, a Florida-based chain of restaurants that feature Hollywood memorabilia, artifacts and movie clips along with dining fare and a souvenir shop.

Planet Hollywood is the latest of several large theme restaurants that the Rouse Co. has brought to Harborplace over the past year in an effort to attract visitors. Occupying about 13,000 square feet of space on two levels on the west side of the Pratt Street pavilion, it will seat more than 250 and employ roughly 275.

The restaurant will replace The Limited, a clothier that is leaving Harborplace on Jan. 31, and several other retailers that are relocating or leaving. Construction will begin Feb. 1, and the grand opening is tentatively set for May 15. "Our interest has been to bring major new restaurants to the Inner Harbor to attract people who wouldn't normally come here," Hawkins said. "Today, we have outdone ourselves."

Woods, the Planet Hollywood president, said the Baltimore restaurant will be the 75th for the chain, which was founded seven years ago. Its founding partners are actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.

Woods declined to disclose exactly how much money the company was investing to create the restaurant, saying only that it was at least "several million" dollars.

For the grand opening, he said, celebrities may be invited to arrive by boat to take advantage of the harbor setting.

"We would love to bring people in by boat," he said. "We'd have our first launch of a Planet Hollywood that would be a true launch."

Smith said that when he became a partner of Planet Hollywood a year ago, he noticed that the chain didn't have a restaurant in his hometown of Philadelphia or his wife's hometown of Baltimore and encouraged the company to fill the gaps.

"Since Jada is from Baltimore and since she's my wife," he said, "Baltimore got one first."

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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