Cordish lines up tenants

Concerts, clubs set for downtown Brokerage project

Power Point Live

Bar Baltimore to open in May, part of a chain

Commercial real estate

March 23, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Citing a need for more live entertainment near the Inner Harbor, the Cordish Co. unveiled plans yesterday to bring three bars and an outdoor performance venue to Power Plant Live, the nearly vacant Brokerage mall the developer hopes to transform into a downtown entertainment district.

Cordish, the developer of Baltimore's Power Plant and other successful retail/entertainment redevelopment projects around the country, said three new tenants and an outdoor plaza for festivals and concerts will open by early fall at 34 Market Place, a collection of 19 brick buildings that failed as a mini-mall.

They include The Lava Lounge, a combination dance club and concert hall; Bar Baltimore, part of a national chain of nightclubs featuring singing, dancing and trick-performing bartenders; and Howl at the Moon, a piano bar with twin baby grand pianos and locations in San Antonio's Riverwalk, Orlando, Fla., and Hollywood, Calif.

The Lava Lounge, an upscale, trendy club currently in the former Chart House restaurant on Pier 4 on the Inner Harbor, will move to the Brokerage and add small concerts for 500 to 1,500 people and a Ticketmaster outlet.

A fourth tenant, Have a Nice Day Cafe, a retro 1970s-style nightclub with a disco dance floor and Partridge Family bus DJ's booth, opened late last year. For operators Bar Investment Group of Charlotte, which also runs Bar Baltimore, it has become the top performer of the 19 Have a Nice Day locations. Another anchor tenant, Ruth's Chris Steak House and the Havana Club, were part of the Brokerage before redevelopment and will remain there.

The Baltimore-based developer's $10 million plan calls for "de-malling" the Brokerage, giving each tenant a storefront with a restored brick faade facing a brick-paved plaza.

The developer hopes to repeat the success of its nearby Power Plant entertainment complex, with an ESPN Zone, Barnes & Noble mega-bookstore and Hard Rock Cafe, while focusing more on the live aspect of entertainment, said David S. Cordish, chairman of the Baltimore-based company.

"The retail entertainment will be live, as opposed to the Power Plant or Harborplace," Cordish said yesterday. "What we don't have in the city is a collection of live dance clubs, comedy clubs, jazz clubs, with some restaurants."

The developer hopes to create a festival atmosphere, with outdoor caf seating, weekly concerts and special performances and events in the central plaza for up to 5,000 people, said Reed S. Cordish, a vice president who is co-directing the project.

A permanent stage will be built, backing up to Baltimore Street, which borders the project on the north, in an area called The Alley. There, weekly concerts will take place under a metal canopy of lights. An arena liquor license will allow restaurant and nightclub patrons to carry drinks outside and between establishments.

Bar Baltimore will open in May in 7,200 square feet on the first floor of a six-story building on the north end of the project. The Lava Lounge will occupy two floors and 15,000 square feet in the main building complex, next to Bar Baltimore and should open by early fall. And Howl at the Moon, which will take 6,000 square feet on a second floor, will open by late summer. The developer expects a total of 14 tenants, which will include sit-down restaurants and small food or retail shops.

In all, the project will contain 150,000 square feet of restaurants, night clubs and retail and 160,000 square fee of office space designed to accommodate the fast-growing technology industry. Cordish also plans to redevelop office space with exposed beams and brick and wood floors and to draw high-tech and internet related companies, such as E-Sylvan, a division of Sylvan Learning Systems, which has recently signed on for 15,000 square feet.

The company was awarded a low-rent lease on the complex late last year by Baltimore city.

The city had bought the Brokerage for $5 million from Bank of America in 1993 after the complex failed in an earlier incarnation in the mid-1980s as an indoor mall with shops and bars.

The city Board of Estimates' approval of the lease sparked a controversy for newly installed Mayor Martin O'Malley Dec. 9 when City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt opposed the deal. She argued the city should share more of the profits from the renewal and accused O'Malley of crumbling under political pressure from a developer.

The board, however, approved the deal, 4-1, with the mayor asserting it would revitalize the Market Square area two blocks north of the Inner Harbor, also home to the Port Discovery children's museum.

The Brokerage has an elaborate interior with wrought-iron railings on upper balconies, stained-glass panels and exposed brick facades, but its storefronts all are vacant. Though individual bars drew crowds under the previous developer's format in the mid-1980s, the project as a whole failed, burdened by high operating costs.

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