3 piers being built in harbor Wooden structures will be dining areas in Power Plant project

'I don't know enough'

Officials say impact on boat traffic will be minimal

May 01, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

To create a large outdoor dining area in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, developers of the Power Plant are building three wooden piers that will jut from the deck of the restaurant and entertainment complex into the adjacent waterway.

Extending about 40 feet into the harbor, they will cover about a third of the channel between Pier 3 and Pier 4, which separates the National Aquarium and the Power Plant.

The planned piers are part of the Baltimore-based Cordish Co.'s $30 million renovation project at the Power Plant. Workers are driving pilings into the harbor floor for the first of the planned piers -- for the Hard Rock Cafe.

"It will open in about two weeks in time for the Preakness," said Joe Weinberg, vice president of Cordish.

Cordish also will build piers for the ESPN Zone and for a seafood restaurant, possibly a Bubba Gumps.

Michele Whelley, deputy director for Baltimore Development Corp., which has spearheaded the redevelopment of the Power Plant, said the piers will have a minimal effect on boat traffic.

"The channels between Piers 3 and 4 are not used for boats to tie up," Whelley said. "We are not taking any wharfage from the general public."

A footbridge also hampers most boat traffic. But any permanent structure that covers the harbor changes the character of the waterfront, some city leaders say.

"I think our waterfront is so important and precious that we have to be sure what is happening to it," said Carolyn Boitnott, president of the Waterfront Coalition.

More public review sought

Boitnott said she knew little about the planned piers and said public notice of the changes should have been given.

"I do think that there ought to be some public review for this," she said. "It seems to be happening and no one knows about it. Maybe [the construction of the piers] is great and we should all be happy about it, but I don't know enough about it."

David Cordish, president of Cordish Co., said yesterday piers always have been part of the redevelopment of the Power Plant, which also calls for a Barnes & Noble book and music store and a Second City comedy club, both expected to open by this summer.

"It has been from day one that there will be three piers," Cordish said.

The construction of piers has been overshadowed by the glitzier aspects of the Power Plant project, especially since landing the Hard Rock Cafe and the ESPN Zone.

Package approved in 1997

Early last year, the Board of Estimates approved the Power Plant redevelopment package.

The Maryland Department of the Environment and the city have issued permits for the construction of the piers.

The Hard Rock pier will extend 36 feet into the water and will be about 60 feet wide, said Peter Latecky, general manager for the Hard Rock.

"It will have a nautical feel," Weinberg said. "It will be a natural extension of the promenade area of the project."

A seating and waiting area for about 150 people will be part of the Hard Rock pier, he said.

The other two piers

Weinberg said plans are under development for the other two piers.

Scott P. Dickey, director of marketing and sales for ESPN Zone, said officials are focusing on the sports restaurant's facilities inside the Power Plant, and will deal with its pier later.

David Pittenger, executive director of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, said the piers will be a welcome addition to the harbor because they will draw people and provide more to do at night.

"I believe this as well as Harborplace is going to create a more exciting evening activity," said Pittenger. "We are going to be open every night in July and August to take advantage."

This latest reincarnation of the Power Plant as theme restaurant and retail complex is the centerpiece of redevelopment of the city's waterfront and parts of the nearby downtown area.

Harborplace, which opened 18 years ago, is completing its first major renovation. Restaurants and stores have been added, and storefronts have been redesigned.

Port Discovery, the much-anticipated children's museum, is to break ground Monday and is expected to open in December.

Despite the successes, some missteps have occurred in the waterfront development. In December, the Columbus Center's Hall of Exploration closed because it attracted too few visitors.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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