Yacht is expected to aid East Harbor development

Boat to dock today at Pier 5 promenade

July 18, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The tall ships are gone, but a two-story party yacht is set to tie up at the Inner Harbor -- an attraction that tourism officials hope will draw visitors to the east side of Baltimore's waterfront and help the rebound of the Harbor Inn Pier 5 Hotel.

The Pintail Lady, a plush, 91-foot yacht with a 145-person capacity, is expected to relocate this weekend from its mooring on the Eastern Shore to its new home alongside the Pier 5 Hotel.

"It helps us ... make a further bridge to the neighborhoods and close that gap between downtown and Fells Point and Little Italy," said Dan Lincoln, vice president of tourism and communications for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. "I think this gives us one more jewel to add to our crown."

FOR THE RECORD - A headline that appeared yesterday in some editions of the Maryland section incorrectly stated that a luxury yacht would be docking yesterday at Pier 5 in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The boat is expected to arrive this weekend.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Tourism officials say the $1.5 million boat will serve as a waterfront entrance to the redeveloping Inner Harbor East where two hotels and more than 200,000 square feet of retail and office space are under construction.

The boat, which will be docked along Pier 5's 300-foot promenade, will also be the centerpiece of an ongoing campaign to revive the long-troubled hotel, which has bounced back since 1998, when it was purchased by a partnership controlled by baking mogul John Paterakis Sr.

Hotel occupancy rates have risen to about 80 percent this year -- up from 50 percent two years ago, before it was bought by the Paterakis group, hotel officials said.

Kevin Carnes, director of hotel operations at the Pier 5 Hotel, said Harbor Inn would use the boat to continue those trends and draw additional corporate clients to the 65-room hotel, as well as attract tourists to an upscale nightclub and seafood restaurant there.

"It is going to add a new dimension to the Inner Harbor," said Carnes, who works for Meyer Jabara Hotels based in Danbury, Conn., the management company that leases the hotel from the Paterakis group.

Lincoln said tourism officials are pleased by the decision to dock the boat at Pier 5 because they are trying to change visitors' impressions that the Power Plant, on Pier 4, is the end of Baltimore's waterfront.

That job, he said, is becoming easier with ongoing construction projects in Inner Harbor East, including the 31-story Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel and the 13-story Courtyard by Marriott -- both being developed by Paterakis.

"The whole east side of the harbor is just booming, and it is kind of the snowball effect," Lincoln said. "It is like a second renaissance. You had first renaissance with the Power Plant, and now this."

The boat's owners, Pintail Charters of Stevensonville in Queen Anne's County, will work with the Pier 5 Hotel in arranging outings. Pintail says the boat will be available to anyone who can afford the $5,500 charter fee. The yacht will be available for corporate dinners and parties, weddings and convention activities, owners said, but will not initially be open to public tours.

The luxury boat -- which features Italian leather furniture, cherry paneling and a working fireplace -- will offer cruises around the harbor and to Philadelphia and Washington.

"I have talked to major companies, the hotels, restaurants and caterers, and all of them are excited we are coming up there," said Deborah Lake, marketing director for Pintail Charters. "It is a win-win situation for Baltimore."

Although the Bay Lady, Lady Baltimore and Clipper City all offer charters from the Inner Harbor, the boats are larger and cater to a different clientele, Lake said.

In addition to using the yacht to draw visitors, the Pier 5 Hotel plans to market the Harbor Club, a nightclub on the hotel's second floor that overlooks the Inner Harbor.

The club, formerly called the Cobalt Lounge, has been struggling in recent years, so Carnes has hired a promoter who specializes in attracting young professionals.

"I want this club to be an exclusive situation with a very upscale dress code," Carnes said.

Carnes is also negotiating with several restaurants that have expressed interest in leasing space that was occupied by Lenny's Chop House until it closed last year, shortly after Paterakis bought the property.

The restaurant's closing was another blow to the hotel that has had problems since it opened in 1989. Four years after it opened, the city bought the debt-plagued hotel for $5.25 million.

An investment group headed by Baltimore developer Otis Warren Jr. and businessman Michael Lasky took over the hotel in 1995, and it reopened in 1997 after a $12 million renovation, billed as a hotel for the affluent.

A year after that, when the property faced foreclosure when Lasky's Inphomation Communications Inc. filed for bankruptcy, Paterakis stepped in and bought it.

The hotel, which also houses McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant, was further isolated a few months later when the Columbus Center, at Pier 5 and East Pratt Street, closed. That building remains vacant.

Despite those setbacks, Lincoln said he is not surprised that the Pier 5 Hotel -- which includes a three-story atrium, art deco lobby, custom-made furniture and guests rooms featuring king-sized beds -- is now on the rebound.

"You are adding all these attractions," to the waterfront, Lincoln said. "The number of tourists and conventions are growing, and things are opening, not closing, and they are opening on the outer fringes of the harbor, so that is a very good sign."

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