As a band played ragtime tunes and confetti and balloons rained down from a newly whitewashed ceiling, merchants at Harborplace's Light Street Pavilion opened new or redesigned shops yesterday as part of an overhaul of one of Baltimore's most popular destinations.
After three months of renovations that included tearing out the former Sam Smith Market on the upper level of the pavilion, Rouse Co. unveiled the renamed Light Street Shops.
Gone was the cluttered and faded look of a portion of the urban mall that had shown its age after 18 years.
Instead, the 30 specialty retailers -- selling handmade sweaters, pottery and jewelry, crab harmonicas and Baltimore sweat shirts, no-tie shoelaces and Dave's Insanity gourmet hot sauce -- got a fresh start selling from carts or shops with glass and mahogany facades and terra cotta flooring.
"It's like night and day, a tremendous improvement," said Robert T. Bucher, who with his wife, Jessie, has sold spiral no-tie shoelaces from the Scribble Me cart in the pavilion for the past three years. As part of the reopening yesterday, the couple rolled out a new line of merchandise, T-shirts children can color.
The new mix of tenants and the redesign -- which blends in with similar remodeling completed on the pavilion's first level last summer -- was just one phase in a major renovation of Harborplace, the waterfront attraction that sparked the renaissance along the banks of the Inner Harbor in the 1980s.
For the first time since then, the twin pavilions on Light and Pratt streets are getting an estimated $25 million makeover -- an attempt by Rouse Co. to refurbish aging infrastructure and lure more people from the region to shop and eat out downtown.
"The thing we're about is change," said Anthony Hawkins, vice president and group director of Rouse, developer of the "festival" shopping complex. "You have to continue to give your customers new product offerings."
Standing in his new Loungin Lizard store with reggae music in the background, entrepreneur Matt Long sported one of the green vintage Hawaiian shirts he and partner Don Keen sell in their tropical-themed shop, along with Jimmy Buffet paraphernalia.
The store is the third for the 26- and 27-year-old partners, who started the business in college.
"We heard they were redoing this [mall] and saw an opportunity," Long said. "Our business does well in tourist destinations."
Jamey Carls, vice president of World of Racing, a Toledo, Ohio-based retailer of Nascar apparel and collectibles, also chose Baltimore as the place to expand his two-store chain.
"We think this is going to be a good mall for us," he said. "We get the customer that doesn't have one in his home town."
Mary Pat Andrea, owner of Celebrate Baltimore, an original tenant, said yesterday that she hoped the renewed awareness would pull in the locals as well.
"People take Harborplace for granted," she said. "But it's not just for out-of-towners."
Pub Date: 4/02/98