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Portuguese, Mexican and Italian cuisine coming to Towson

Portuguese, Italian and Mexican restaurants will join Cinemark Theatres at the $85 million Towson Square project, expected to generate more than 1,500 jobs.

Plans for the theater have also been revised, with 15 screens instead of the original 16, county officials and developers said at a news conference Tuesday. The theater will be one of two in the country to feature a VIP seating section with private bar access and premium food. Work on the 850-space parking garage will finish in the fall and the entire Towson Square project will open in 2014.

Nando’s Peri-Peri, La Tagliatella and On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina will open at the development, along with five other eateries that have yet to be unveiled. A South African-based franchise that sells flame-grilled Portuguese-style chicken, Nando's has restaurants in Annapolis, Gambrills, National Harbor, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. La Tagliatella is a European chain that is owned by AmRest Holding SE, which bills itself as the largest independent restaurant operator in Central and Eastern Europe. This would be the first La Tagliatella in Maryland and the fourth in the US.

The development may include some retail, but the center will be predominantly entertainment focused, said Cordish Cos. Vice President Blake Cordish. 

Branding Towson as an area that can attract folks outside the county was a major theme at the news conference.

"We’ve put together a collection of amenities that would be a regional draw,” Cordish said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz engaged in a little light-hearted rivalry with Bethesda, saying he’s tired of hearing about Bethesda’s wonderful amenities and strong business community.

“Guess what folks? We’re certainly a livable and loveable jurisdiction. We are going to make Towson a regional destination.”

Writer: Amy Landsman
Sources: Blake Cordish, Cordish Cos; Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive 

A New Partner Dances Into the Creative Alliance

Watch out for new movement in East Baltimore as the Rayn Fall Dance Studio expands to a second location at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown.

Classes operated by the woman-owned dance workshop will take place in the Alliance’s black box theater, which holds concerts, movie screenings and their annual holiday craft fair.

Morgan State University graduate Sharayna Christmas Rose founded Rayn Fall Dance Studio in 2004 and operates the other location at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center.

The Creative Alliance struck a partnership with Rayn Fall after the education coordinator enrolled her stepdaughter at the studio. She admired the program and thought dance would make a good addition to the Alliance’s community outreach. At the same time, Rayn Fall was seeking to expand in southeast Baltimore.

“We are a community based organization, and so is Rayn Fall Dance Studio, so it was such a good marriage,” Creative Alliance Marketing Director Helen Yuen says. The collaboration is a natural extension of the after-school arts education programs the Alliance currently offers to the community.

Classes for the winter session include for Mommy & Me Creative Movement education for toddlers, as well as ballet, tap and hip hop for elementary kids.

Writer: Amy Landsman
Source: Helen Yuen, Creative Alliance

Developer Plots $25M Apartment and Retail Complex in South Baltimore

Construction will begin this summer on a $25 million building with market-rate apartments, a 247-car garage and retail.

Developer Chesapeake Realty Partners expects the project to be completed in the spring of 2014. The Owings Mills company also spearheaded the apartment complex across the street at 1901 Patapsco St.

Plans for the as-yet unnamed project at 2 East Wells St. call for 153 apartments, including 96 efficiencies and 57 one-and-two bedroom units. Renters can expect to pay, on average, about $1,800 per month. 

Currently, there are warehouses and offices on the lot, which also includes 1800 and 1802 Patapsco Streets. Mayers says he believes this is an opportunity to “create a new version of an existing neighborhood,” with good walkability and easy highway access.

The project also calls for 6,000 square feet of retail, says Chesapeake Realty President Jonathan Mayers. Facing East Wells Street, future retail tenants will serve the local community, and could include a bagel and coffee shop, nail salon, or a small local grocery, Mayers says.

“There’s really few commercial or industrial buildings left, and everything else in the neighborhood is more or less rowhomes or new apartment buildings,” Mayer says.

Demand for apartments remains strong throughout the city as many apartment complexes report nearly 100 percent occupancy rates. 

“We feel there’s a dearth of housing options in the south Baltimore market,” says Josh Fidler, Chesapeake’s chief operating officer. He says the area holds a number of assets, including Riverside Park, the headquarters for the National Federation of the Blind and the former Pabst brewery that is set to reopen this summer.

Mayers says the garage will be large enough to offer secure parking for tenants and visitors, with additional spaces available for lease. Plans also call for widening the alleys around the new building, making parking and access easier for the existing rowhomes on South Charles, Barney and Patapsco Streets.
 
Sources:
Jonathan Mayers and Josh Fidler; Chesapeake Realty Partners
Writer: Amy Landsman
 
 
 
 
 

Vegas-style nightclub Paparazzi to open in former Sonar spot

New owners are set to open a new nightclub this month in the former Sonar space in downtown Baltimore.
 
Co-owner Anil Prashar says he’ll debut Paparazzi nightclub at 407 E. Saratoga St. with an International Night-themed soft opening. From then on, the nightclub will be open Thursdays and Saturdays. Prashar and three business partners spent about $500,000 to refurbish Sonar as a Las Vegas-style lounge, bar and dance floor that can hold up to 1,000. The dance floor will be located in a former parking garage that the Prashar and his business partners are taking over.
 
Live music venue Sonar opened in 2001 and closed last year. Former Sonar owner Daniel McIntosh was convicted in November for his role in a marijuana and money-laundering scheme. The popular club featured electronica, rock and indie acts over the years, as well events like the Maryland Deathfest.
 
Prashar says believes Baltimore needs another nightclub. “It’s been missing for a long time. We’ve had Mosaic, but that’s it.”
 
The co-owner, who has a marketing background and helped promote former local clubs like Mist, says he was inspired by places like Vegas hotspots that incorporate luxurious style with leather cushions, hardwood floors and rich, colored fabrics. DJs will spin Top 40 songs and house dance music. Prashar says he anticipates having celebrity guest hosts while eventually opening the venue to charity events, holiday parties and live entertainment and eventually adding a kitchen.
 
Prashar chose the name Paparazzi based on everyone’s inner desire for fame. “The day and age we live in, a lot of what goes on with Facebook is about pictures and being seen. The biggest thing on top of customer service is social relevancy, and we want to show that everyone has social relevancy,” Prashar says.
 
The nightclub will employ 30 and rely on another 40 to 50 for promotions. 

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Anil Prashar, Paparazzi

Investors Spending $1.3M to Resurrect Former Pabst Brewery

A South Baltimore entrepreneur is brewing up plans to revive the former Pabst Brewing Co. building at the corner of Wells and South Charles Streets.

Former Austin Grill General Manager Spike Owen and a team of investors are spending more than $1.3 million to renovate the historic vacant building for the yet-to-be named project, expected to wrap up by fall. Baltimore's Green Door Properties LLC is the developer. 

Owen says he hopes to open a brewery that produces European and American-style ales and lagers and a taproom that seats 65 to 80 with a limited food menu. He says he is partnering with a veteran brewer with 25 years of experience but declined to name him as the brewer is employed elsewhere in town.

He’s the latest in the recent spate of hopeful entrepreneurs who have tapped into Baltimore residents’ thirst for locally made brews and beer-themed restaurants. Other recent entries include Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry and Heavy Seas Alehouse in Little Italy.

The idea of renovating a historic building that dates from Baltimore’s brewing heyday appeals to Owen. Beer manufacturing thrived from the late-1800s to the mid-1900s, thanks to the city's German immigrants.

“We like the sense of history,” he says. “We’re trying to bring [the building] back to what its original use was. When you have something like this, it helps with the branding.”

Owen says he’ll spend the next few months getting permits, ordering brewing equipment and modernizing the building’s infrastructure. The idea is to retain the historic features, including brick walls, wood beams and high ceilings.

The property is down the street from the National Federation of the Blind and a new apartment complex set to open spring of 2014. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Spike Owen 

Japanese Tea House to Open in Ellicott City

A new gift shop and café called Matcha Time is making its home in downtown Ellicott City.

Owner Hatsumi Watanabe-Smith grew up outside Tokyo, and later traveled the world. Now she and her family are settled in Ellicott City, where she’s decided to open shop, named for the Japanese green tea known as matcha. The gift shop opened this month at the 1,000-square-foot space at 8381 Merryman St. The café will open in the coming months once it gets county approval.

Though Ellicott City is home to a tea room, Tea on the Tiber, Matcha Time will offer sushi, Japanese baked goods and, hopefully, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Watanabe-Smith and her husband Derek Smith invested about $70,000 in the store, whose entrance faces a parking lot. The space was previously home to the Hackers Inc. Mancave, which moved last spring to a larger location in Ellicott City. Smith says the search for a suitable space took months, as good locations in Ellicott City tend to get snapped up fast.

The space is divided between a retail section, and the teashop and café. The retail side features Japanese crafts, origami, and handbags and clutches fashioned from vintage kimonos.
 
Writer: Amy Landsman  landlink1@verizon.net
Sources: Hatsumi Watanabe-Smith, Derek Smith, owners, Matcha Time
 

Jewish Community Center Opening Federal Hill Branch

The Jewish Community Center of Baltimore is branching out to downtown Baltimore, opening a Federal Hill branch just for parents and kids. Opening Jan. 14, the center fills the void for city families who have long been frustrated by the lack of children’s gyms and other fun places for preschoolers’ downtown.

The JCC has leased 2,000 square-feet at 1118 Light St., between West and Cross Streets. The former office space will feature a drop-in playroom, a play area, a nursing room and a room that parents can rent for birthday parties.

 “We’ll have age appropriate toys and a clean, comfortable space that parents can come and have their kids play,” says JCC Family Program Coordinator Kim Jacobsohn. “Our goal is to create communities for families to connect with each other,” Jacobson says. “I’m very excited to finally be giving birth to this new project.”

The downtown branch joins the JCC’s two existing campuses in Park Heights and Owings Mills, both of which feature full-service fitness facilities and programing for all ages.

For the past five years or so, the JCC has been offering family programming in borrowed locations in Fells Point, Canton, and Federal Hill, and has long wanted a permanent place to call home.

“We decided to go to Federal Hill because we realized in Federal Hill there’s more likely to be a stay-at-home parent, or a parent who’s working from home, than other neighborhoods in downtown,” Jacobsohn says.

The first floor space is stroller accessible and members can park in a lot behind the building. Jacobsohn and a part-time program facilitator will staff the new facility.

The drop-in rate is $5 per child up to three times, after that, families are asked to join the Downtown JCC. The introductory membership rate is $50 a year.

The JCC is an educational, cultural and recreational agency. You do not have to be Jewish to become a member or sign up for a class.

The JCC will continue to offer its Hello Baby class for parents of newborns, and Infant Massage, in Fells Point and Canton. Other parent-child classes for babies and toddlers will move to the new location in Federal Hill.
 
Source: Kim Jacobsohn, JCC Family Program Coordinator
Reporter: Amy Landsman, landlink1@verizon.net

$1.3M Sports Bar Opening in Ellicott City

A new sports bar is hoping to hit a home run in Ellicott City. Construction will begin this summer on a Glory Days Grill at Forest Green, a LEED Silver retail and residential apartment complex under construction on Route 40.

The 16-year-old Gaithersburg company is spending $1.3 million on the 300-seat eatery, Glory Days Co-founder Jeff Newman says. The company will hire about 100 employees to staff the 6,000-square-foot restaurant, expected to open fall of next year.Glory Days operates 22 locations in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, including restaurants in Eldersburg, Glen Burnie and Towson.

The Ellicott City location appealed to Glory Days executives because there aren’t a lot of full-service restaurants in the area.

“We’re lacking a lot of direct competition,” Newman says. “Nobody is playing in our sandbox.”

The new restaurant will feature a glass-covered atrium at the entrance, high ceilings and a patio with heaters and awning for year-round alfresco dining. The patio will seat about 50. And of course, there will be plenty of sports memorabilia and flat-screen TVs to watch the game.

The restaurant will incorporate more energy efficient, LED lighting in keeping with the center’s green theme. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Jeff Newman, Glory Days 

Nutrition and Wellness Club to Debut in Federal Hill

Federal Hill residents whose New Year’s resolution is to stay fit will get some help from a new business in the neighborhood.
 
Baltimore Nutrition Club will open at 1005 South Charles St. Jan. 14, the store’s Co-owner Carin Beldin says. Beldin and Co-owner Matthew Christ are both personal trainers who work at Baltimore area health clubs.
 
Nutrition Club customers will pay a daily fee — $6 to $9 — to receive a healthful breakfast that includes a shot of aloe, a 200-calorie meal replacement shake packed with 15 grams of protein, and metabolic tea. The store will also sell Herbalife products for an additional charge.
 
The daily fee also covers specials like a free wellness evaluation, wellness coaching and fitness classes. The club will hold three to five classes per week. Fitness activities may include hula-hoop lessons, Pilates, pre-and post-natal training, boot-camp boxing and Mommy and Me group walks. Beldin says she also anticipates starting a Federal Hill running club, like those in Fells Point and Canton.
 
Beldin says she wanted to open the Nutrition Club in Federal Hill since she’s been working with neighborhood residents for seven years.
 
“There’s a need for healthy options and nutritional habits in Baltimore,” Beldin says. “I know from working in gyms that people get nervous. Here, there will be no judgments. It’ll be low key with weight-loss challenges and celebrations.”
 
Beldin might host book club meetings and offer Wi-Fi in the 600-square-foot space. She and Christ don’t plan to hire additional employees, but they each know 10-15 independent distributors they will potentially do business with.
 
Beldin hopes to expand to others areas like Canton. With the success of nutrition clubs like First Nutrition in Bel-Air and Aberdeen, she envisions them proliferating like Starbucks, popping up on every block.
 
 
Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Carin Beldin, Baltimore Nutrition Club

Breathe Books Hiring Former Louie's Pastry Chef For New Cafe

Hampden’s Breathe Books will add a café in February that offers beans, grains and greens.
 
Owner Susan Weis-Bohlen is spending $150,000 on the café, generated from area foundations and investors.
 
Vegan, vegetarian and Ayurvedic foods will be on the menu, in addition to café staples like scones and muffins. The new-age bookstore will also offer vegan cookies and cupcakes and raw macaroons, along with light meals like the Chick Pea Pick Me Up and Your Tart’s Desire and a daily blue-plate special. All treats will be made without white sugar and white flour. Weis-Bohlen is looking for local coffee products to sell at the venue at 810 West 36th St.
 
Joann Goshen, the former pastry chef of beloved Mount Vernon institution Louie's Bookstore Café will be working in the kitchen. Joining her will be Rene and Don Gorman, formerly of Pikesville’s Puffins Restaurant. Weis-Bohlen will also prepare dishes that conform to the Ayurvedic tradition. Ayurveda is a form of alternative medicine that relies on food for its healing properties.
 
In addition to the chefs, Weis-Bohlen will hire three additional employees as the hours extend from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Breathe currently employs four.
 
The coffee bar will be in the front of the store, with a lounge area in the back, outdoor seating on the porch and as many as six tables upstairs. The store will carry magazines and international newspapers once the café opens.
 
Weis-Bohlen says she considered finding a new space for the café but decided to include it in her 750-square-foot store, a renovated house that already has a kitchen. She says she wanted to stay in Hampden because of the support from the community and the Hampden Village Merchants Association.  
 
Breathe’s café will bring in another source of revenue as more people turn to digital books. “Books themselves aren’t what they used to be,” Weis-Bohlen says. “Customers need a healthy, happy living. Food makes a bookstore more comfortable and casual.”
 
Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Susan Weis-Bohlen, Breathe Books

Interior Design Firm Scouting for Office Space

A three-year-old interior design firm whose clients include Millennial Media and Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. is scouting for office space in Baltimore City and adding to its staff.

Kelly Ennis, founding principal of the Verve Partnership, says she is looking at Clipper Mill and other historic properties in the area with the hope of leasing a 2,000-square-foot office in January. “We’re looking for an office that reflects our brand — less formal but creative and professional,” says Ennis, who has been working out of her Hampden home. Ennis has hired Doug Kaufman of AGM Commercial Real Estate Advisors LLC as her broker. 

The six-person firm will soon add another designer and a project architect and grow to about 20 employees over the next three years. Ennis says she eventually would like to expand to other smaller cities, such as Denver and Pittsburgh.  

A Pennsylvania native, Ennis moved to Baltimore in the 1980s to get her BFA in interior architecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She moved to Los Angeles for eight years, where she worked for HOK, the largest US-based architectural engineering firm. Locally, Ennis has worked for Gensler.

Ennis wanted to start her own firm because she wanted to design offices where the company’s brand is incorporated in its interior design. For instance, Verve blended a casual and corporate environment on behalf of Millennial Media, designing a “park like” area for flexible meeting space and a “jam room” for the staff musicians.

OmniTI, an IT services firm with offices in Fulton and New York City, wanted a space that fostered creativity. Verve incorporated graffiti and musical instruments in the office design. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Kelly Ennis, Verve Partnership 

Carryout Barbecue Joint Comes to Hamilton

After 35 years in the food service business Dexter Ellison is serving up his mom’s old time soul food recipes in a small storefront in Hamilton.

Sarah’s Down Home Cooking opened last month at 4915 Harford Road, serving dishes created from treasured family recipes from Ellison’s late mom, Sarah. The dishes include barbecue minced meat, spare ribs and oxtails.

The 2,400-square-foot shop was previously an African restaurant, but had been vacant a few years when Ellison and his wife Terry took over.

The family, including daughter Shahidah Abdullah, renovated the entire space. There is a snug counter that seats four —  five if you want to get cozy.

They’ve been passing out flyers and trying to spread the word about their opening, says Abdullah, who is in charge of the fresh baked cupcakes, Rice Krispies Treats, and cookies.

Ellison spent 35 years as a food service supervisor and manager. This is his first restaurant venture. He’s keeping Sarah’s open seven days a week, and admits he hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep the past month.
 
The Ellisons live in Rosedale, but are happy they chose Hamilton for their new venture. “It seems like a real nice area,” Ellison says.
 
Writer: Amy Landsman landlink1@verizon.net
Sources: Dexter Ellison, Shahidah Abdullah, Sarah’s Down Home Cooking



Prudential Adding New Offices, Hiring Agents

Prudential Homesale YWGC Realty is adding a new office in Fells Point and expanding its Timonium office in a new location by Jan. 1. It’s hiring dozens of agents to staff both locations as the housing market slowly recovers.
 
About a third of the Timonium space’s 5,900-square feet will become the Real Estate Education Center of Maryland, where Prudential will teach continuing education and realty licensing classes. Prudential Broker and General Manager Scott Lederer says it expects to gain state approval for the school within 30 days.
 
“As the real estate market improves, we’re poised to take full advantage of it,” Lederer says.
 
The real estate firm is closing its existing Timonium office at 108 West Timonium Road and moving around the corner, to the old Hobby Shop location in the Fairgrounds Plaza at 53 West Aylesbury Road.
 
The 24 agents who currently work in Timonium will all make the move to the new Fairgrounds Center location, says Prudential Broker and General Manager Scott Lederer. Prudential is hiring as 10 new agents in Timonium and could hire as many as another 10 additional down the road.
 
The 3,250-square-foot office at 1500 Thames St. will open mid-December and is the former site of Pad Furniture. Pad is now housed within the Su Casa Furniture location in Ellicott City.
 
A dozen current Prudential agents are ready to move in when the office opens and six to 10 new hires will join thereafter, Lederer says.
 
When fully staffed, the Fells Point office will accommodate up to 50 agents, which Lederer expects will happen within three months.
 
Prudential Homesale YWGC was created in February, when Yerman, Witman, Gaines and Conklin Realty merged with the Homesale Services Group out of Pennsylvania. Homesale YCGC is affiliated with Prudential Realty.
 
 
Source: Scott Lederer, Broker, General Manager, Prudential Homesale YWGC Realty.       
Writer: Amy Landsman, landlink1@verizon.net
 

New Fed Hill Boutique Sells Second-Hand Gucci

A second-hand boutique in Federal Hill promises shoppers stylish, affordable purchases that are cleaned for new owners.
 
B'more Betty, which stands for “Bringing Exclusive Trends To You,” opened at 1316 Light St. earlier this month. A buyer and seller of designer and vintage clothing and accessories for women, Betty carries Gucci, Anne Klein, Ann Taylor, Christian Dior, Burberry and Nine West, with prices between $7 and $100.
 
Customers can bring their items for selling and trading on Sundays. Owner Camille Edwards exchanges clothing and accessories up front for cash, 25 percent store credit or other store items. Inspired by her own thrift store purchase nightmares complete with deodorant-stained dresses and food spots, Edwards takes all previously used items to Zip’s Dry Cleaners every Tuesday.
 
Edwards, a Federal Hill resident who has lived in the area for one year, says she believes Betty fits the neighborhood. “People are open to buying and selling vintage things here. It’s a safe area with foot traffic,” Edwards says. When looking for places to open her boutique, Hampden came to mind because of the vintage feel and friendly atmosphere, but she believed the price range and formal style of the designer brands would attract more customers in Federal Hill.
 
Edwards’ inspiration for opening a small shop and decorating the 900-square-foot boutique with vintage, artistic styles came from her love of Parisian shops. She currently has only one other employee who helps during evenings but would like to hire more and expand in the current building to include men’s clothing.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Camille Edwards, B'more Betty 

Stone Mill Opening Second Bakery and Cafe

For many years, Stone Mill Bakery co-owner Alfie Himmelrich has admired Stevenson Village, the small, upscale shopping center nestled among the farmland in Baltimore County’s Greenspring Valley.
 
Now he’s joining the Village this month, opening a second Stone Mill Bakery & Café in the space formerly occupied by the now-closed Coffee with T. The two-level, 1,000-square foot space in Stevenson is getting a general facelift and will likely house Stone Mill the first or second week of December. In the spring, Himmelrich will add a barbeque pit in the parking lot of the new location with his dad and son – both named Sam – serving as the pitmasters.
 
Himmelrich, who co-owns Stone Mill with his wife Dana, says he probably visits about 10 different spaces a year, but he’s never been tempted to expand beyond his single café and retail outlet at Green Spring Station in Lutherville until now.
 
“Not only have I frequented that location as a consumer, but I’ve always loved it,” he says. “It’s so sophisticated.”
 
“We’re doing some fun stuff. We’re going to do some brunches and we’re setting the upstairs up as a dining room.”
 
The café will employ four people, including one long-time Green Spring employee who will transition to the new location. Himmelrich says the new Stone Mill will be a quieter and more intimate experience than Green Spring, which is often jammed-packed with loyal customers.
 
In addition to the Café, the couple also run the Stone Mill wholesale bakery in the Clipper Mill Industrial Park, which provides bread to shops and restaurants throughout Baltimore and Annapolis. The company employs 65.
 
Stevenson Village has been around since the 1970’s. Max Realty bought the property about three years ago.
 
“I have been a customer of Stone Mill for many years and I was convinced that they would be a great fit for Stevenson Village,” wrote Max Realty co-owner Aaron Max in an email.
 
Reporter: Amy Landsman  landlink1@verizon.net
Sources: Alfie Himmelrich, co-owner Stone Mill Bakery
Aaron Max, co-owner Max Realty
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