Harbor visitors divided on restaurant proposal Seafood suppers could compete with vistas

July 16, 1998|By Alec Klein | Alec Klein,SUN STAFF

Where Forrest Gump came from, folks had a way of looking at things plain. Simple is as simple does.

But this is not Hollywood and people in these parts aren't sure whether they want the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, a real business inspired by the hit movie "Forrest Gump," to be built in the inlet near the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The controversy, driven by civic leaders' fears that the Inner Harbor's scenic waters would be overrun by concrete and a crustaceans menu, remained yesterday as spicy and murky as jambalaya among those who really count -- its potential customers.

"I think there's enough of a view other places," said supporter Maria Kebejian, a 44-year-old Towson resident on her first visit to the nearby ESPN Zone with her three children.

Some simply like the idea of a 8,000-square-foot Bubba Gump shrimp boat.

"All I know is, it seems the aquarium doesn't like it and Harbor Court [Hotel] doesn't like it, but I think it'd be good," said Rick Wanhoff, a 40-year-old Dundalk maintenance man pushing a red hand cart across a footbridge overlooking the proposed barge site. "It's something different. It's not like hamburgers or ham and cheese. It's a different food."

Others, however, fear that a wider variety of restaurants will come at the expense of a vista in limited supply.

"What they have here is beautiful now, and to add to what they have here would clutter up the beauty of the harbor," said Robin Kimple, a 33-year-old tourist from Gettysburg, Pa. "We don't have too many of these places left -- that are open. There's been more emphasis on development and less on natural beauty. I'd hate to see the [Inner Harbor] ruined by development."

Critics say that development on the waterfront -- a panorama of restaurants and shops, sight-seers and street performers -- has gone too far.

"Sometimes, you have to say, 'Enough is enough,' " said 29-year-old Phillip E. Freeland of Northeast Baltimore.

Food has been the waterfront theme with the recent openings of the Hard Rock Cafe and the ESPN Zone at the redeveloped Power Plant near Bubba's planned barge and Planet Hollywood farther west along the harbor.

"Have they already opened Pandora's box?" asked Ann Hart, a commercial insurance agent in her white Reebok sneakers on her lunch stroll, pointing to the Hard Rock Cafe's dock. "I would think there would have to be some restrictions. If you allow that [barge], where would it all end? Would the whole Inner Harbor be obstructed by restaurants?"

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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