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Hard Rock Cafe sets the stage for live music and new menu after renovation

Baltimore’s Hard Rock Café is ramping up for more live music and a new menu following a multimillion-dollar renovation.

Located in a converted power plant building, the 16-year-old restaurant features a 65-foot-high lighted guitar that has become an iconic symbol of the Inner Harbor’s transformation from an industrial waterfront to an entertainment destination. But as longstanding Baltimore restaurants faced more competition, many have refreshed their properties and reinvented their brands. Morton’s the Steakhouse, the 13th Floor  and Mt. Washington's Pepe Pizza are among some of the restaurants that have been renovated in the past year.

The 200-seat Hard Rock received a spruced up patio, new terrazzo and wood floors, rock memorabilia and sound system as part of its makeover.

“It has more of a sleek, contemporary look to it with a lot of lights hanging down at different levels,” says David Miller, director of operations for Hard Rock International. “It’s got a lot of life to it with a lot of vibrant colors that pop and make a great statement.”

The remodeled stage is also now the focal point of the café, featuring a red wall lined with speakers and the Hard Rock Cafe logo in the middle.

“The intent is to have ongoing live music,” both inside the restaurant and on the pier, Miller says.

The Hard Rock Café celebrated its new look Oct. 1 with a private concert featuring Las Vegas indie rock band Imagine Dragons. The band smashed 16 guitars, representing each year that the Hard Rock has been open.

Kitchen managers and corporate chefs at the Orlando, Fla., chain's headquarters are in the process of tweaking its menu and will unveil its new offerings in February.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: David Miller, Hard Rock 

MICA opening $16M dorm next month in Bolton Hill

Students at Maryland Institute College of Art looking to live on campus will get new digs next month. The Bolton Hill art college is opening a $16.3 million residence hall as enrollment grows and unveiling a $3 million renovation of its residential complex.
 
Located at 130 McMechen St., Leake Hall will house 240 students in 62 units. Part of the college's newly named Founder's Green Residential Complex, Leake Hall will include a performance space, lecture hall and artist studios. 

Renovations to the residential complex include a new entrance at the John H.B. Latrobe House and a new student lounge, a grill-style dining facility and expanded laundry facilities at Margaret F.S. Glace Hall. Baltimore architecture firm Hord Coplan Macht designed Leake Hall while Ayers Saint Gross handled the renovations. MICA financed the construction and renovations primarily through tax exempt bonds issued by the school and the Maryland Health and Higher Education Facilities Authority.
 
MICA has been updating and expanding its campus its facilities and housing in recent years to accommodate its student growth. Renovations to Studio Center, a complex for graduate programs on North Avenue, wrapped up last fall.
 
In 2008, MICA debuted its $30 million Gateway complex at the intersection of North Avenue and Mount Royal Avenue.  The dorm houses 215 students in apartment-style housing.
 
MICA enrolls nearly 3,000 undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students. Enrollment grew 16 percent last year. 
 
 
Source: Jessica Weglein, MICA’s director of public relations
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, Alexandra@bmoremedia.com
 
 

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company begins construction on new downtown Baltimore home

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company hosted a groundbreaking ceremony July 9 to celebrate the start of construction on its new downtown Baltimore space, after raising about $4 million for its capital campaign. 

The nonprofit group’s Board of Trustees made the decision to begin construction after reviewing the fundraising project’s financial progress, as well as the duration of construction and the challenges that the project may entail. The theater troupe has received money from a variety of sources, including the state and the Abell Foundation.

In late 2014, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company plans to open the doors to its new theatre, housed within the Mercantile Trust building at Calvert and Redwood streets, according to spokeswoman Jean Thompson. The theater  company will continue to hold shows at a variety of venues in Howard County. 

The construction plans for the new 250-seat theatre will incorporate existing aspects of the Mercantile Trust building’s architecture.

“Our vision for the theater is a modern Globe, based on the design of Shakespeare's Globe theatre, with an intimacy putting the audience as close to the actors as possible,” Thompson says.

The new home is two blocks from the Inner Harbor and has been the home of several nightclubs. Baltimore architectural firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates Inc. has designed the 14,000-square-foot, circa 1885 building. See pictures of the Mercantile building here in our recent slideshow

Writer: Daryl Hale
Source: Jean Thompson, Chesapeake Shakespeare

New Martick's restaurant and speakeasy to open in August

It’s a good time to celebrate the Roaring 20s. Director Baz Luhrmann has remade “The Great Gatsby” movie. WC Harlan in Remington is one of Baltimore’s hottest bars. And now the former Martick’s Restaurant Francis is about to be remade into a modern-day speakeasy when it reopens in August.

Speakeasies were hidden bars where in-the-know customers could enjoy a cocktail during Prohibition. It will still be called Martick’s, in honor of the late Morris Martick, the restaurant’s long-time owner, but there won’t be a sign at the Mount Vernon restaurant — just like its predecessor. If the light is on, it’s open. If not, you’re out of luck, says Co-owner Brooks Bennett. Another co-owner is Alex Martick, Morris Martick’s brother.

The property at 214 W. Mulberry St. in Mount Vernon consists of a first floor main dining room and the original 1933 bar, plus a second floor slated to be used for private parties. The first floor can seat about 75.

Bennett says they’re bringing in a chef and a mixologist who will showcase seasonal and regional beverages, highlighting Prohibition-era cocktails.

The menu is preliminary but will feature about a half dozen appetizers, including fries made from blue, white and yellow potatoes. The half dozen or so entrees will emphasize seafood.

The operators are leasing the building from the Martick family. The building will undergo a renovation with an eye toward giving it an old-timey speakeasy atmosphere, with reclaimed wooden floors and photos of the late Martick. 

Bennet hopes to do a soft opening in August, with an official opening in September. Currently Martick’s will likely be open Wednesdays through Sundays, but if business is good, the owners may expand the hours. Bennett says he expects the city to approve the liquor license in July.

The building really was a speakeasy back during Prohibition. After repeal, it became a legitimate bar. For 38 years, Morris Martick ran his French restaurant there before retiring in 2008.  Martick died in 2011 at age 88.

Speakeasies are making a comeback. Bennett says he visited modern day speakeasies from New York to Virginia to get a sense of what might work here in Baltimore.

“It’s all about the mystique and the mood,” he says.
 
Writer: Amy Landsman
Source: Brooks Bennett, co-owner Martick’s Speakeasy.

Former Bourbon Street spot in downtown Baltimore could get a new owner

Two employees of a music promotion firm want to revive the space that held Bourbon Street and Hammerjacks nightclubs for a new live entertainment venue in downtown Baltimore.

Evan Weinstein and Elliot Lidard have applied for an arena liquor license under the name Area 316 LLC at 316-318 Guilford Ave. The application says Area 316 plans to offer live performances, alcohol and food though one of the applicants, Evan Weinstein, says there are no plans to serve food. The deadline for public comment on the application is May 30. The Baltimore City liquor board says the hearing will be scheduled sometime after then.

The liquor license application names Weinstein as Area 316’s president and Elliot Lidard as its secretary. Weinstein is in charge of marketing and promotions and Lidard of production for Steez Promo, which promotes music acts and shows in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston. Steez Promo is promoting the Moonrise Festival, which will be held June 8-9 at Port Covington. 

Weinstein says Area 316 will own and operate the business. He declined to comment further until the details are worked out. Lidard could not be reached for comment. 

Bourbon Street opened in 2008. One of its rooms held 1,300 people and 500 fit into another, according to reverbnation.com. Bands and DJs played rap, rock and dance music. A man was stabbed to death there April 2, 2011, the Baltimore Sun reported. It closed six months later.

In 2000, the two-story building became the new home of Hammerjacks, whose original space was demolished for Ravens stadium parking. The club closed in 2006. Competition had increased two years earlier with the start of Rams Head Live several blocks away in Power Plant Live. 

Writer: Wayne Countryman
Sources: Baltimore City liquor board, Evan Weinstein. 

New art gallery and cafe coming to Highlandtown

A new art gallery, café and gift shop is coming to Highlandtown this summer that will showcase local artists in permanent and revolving art exhibits.  
 
Highlandtown Art Gallery Owner Felicia Zannino-Baker will showcase10 to 12 artists per month at the 1,000-square-foot gallery at  248 S. Conkling St., near the recently opened Baltimore Threadquarters. Baker will devote an area to slideshows of historical Highlandtown and host book signings, artist talks and workshops with local crafters making scarves, wooden puzzles, textiles, wooden puzzles, collages and handbags.
 
The gift shop will sell notecards, duffle bags, mugs and local books, including Gary Helton’s “History of Highlandtown.” Baker says she is working with the owners of Highlandtown's High Grounds Coffee Roasters to create a special blend specifically for the gallery café.
 
Baker was born and raised in Highlandtown and owns the residential and commercial design company Magnolia Studios LLC. In addition to a Washington, D.C., location, Magnolia previously had a location next to the gallery and now has a studio on Eastern Ave.
 
Baker is also a member of the Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District advisory board. “This is a wonderful experience. Once you tap into these people, you see it’s very rich and diverse, and there’s something for everyone. It’s all different mediums: sculpture, watercolor, collage. You name it, they’re there. It’s in their hearts and in their minds.”
 
Baker owns the building that houses the gallery. The gallery will occupy the first floor while the second and third floors are residential space.
 
Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Felicia Zannino-Baker, Highlandtown Art Gallery

Metro Centre retail and residential building to open in May

Construction of the first two residential and retail buildings for massive Baltimore County development Metro Centre at Owings Mills will wrap up by next month. The first will open in May and the second will open at the end of June.

The buildings, called Metro Crossing, are both five-stories high, with retail on the ground floor and rental apartments on the upper floors. The buildings are mirror images of each other. The two buildings split evenly a total of 56,000 square feet of retail space and 232 one- and two-bedroom apartments. 

A number of retail leases are in final negotiations, says Lynn Abeshouse, managing principal of real estate brokerage firm Abeshouse Partners. Until contracts are signed, Abeshouse declined to give specific names but says possible tenants include fast-casual and white-table restaurants, clothing stores, liquor stores and health clubs. 
 
One-bedroom apartments average 770 square feet; two-bedroom apartments, which all have two full bathrooms, run from 873 square feet to 1,245 square feet. Prices for one bedrooms run from $1,580 to $1,695 per month; for two bedrooms, $1,855 to $2,490 per month. Abeshouse declined to say how many apartments have been leased so far. 
 
The two buildings are located on Grand Central Avenue, off Painters Mill Road, near the Owings Mills Metro Subway Station and across from the County Campus at Metro Centre at Owings Mills. The six-story combination Baltimore County Public Library and the Community College of Baltimore County building is scheduled to open this week. A free parking garage next to the building is already open.
 
The two residential and retail buildings, the library/community college building and an office building now under construction compose the first phase of the Metro Centre at Owings Mills. That's about one-fourth of the total development. The four-story, 200,000-square-foot office building on Grand Central Avenue is expected to open this fall.
 
The state-designated transit-oriented development will eventually have over 1.2 million square feet of office space; 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; 1,700 residential units; and, a 250-room hotel. Maryland and Baltimore County have spent more than $57 million on infrastructure at Metro Centre at Owings Mills to date. The rest is privately funded.
 
Source: Lynn Abeshouse, Abeshouse Partners
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Senator Theatre could reopen in May

The owners of the Senator Theatre will wrap up its $3 million restoration this spring and expect the historic North Baltimore landmark to open at the end of May after a year of closure.
 
The once aging, single-screen theater will open with four screens and a 50- to 75-seat wine bar, says Co-owner Kathleen Cusack.
 
The yearlong renovation includes restoring the murals, installing new seats and getting a new chandelier for the 74-year-old Art Deco-style theater. Kathleen and her father James “Buzz” Cusack spent $1 million on the repairs, while the remaining money for the restoration came from a bank loan and city and state money.
 
“We’ve been working on this project since 2009 and it’s been a very labor intensive process. We’re happy to see things finally moving along,” Cusack says.
 
The theater will show mostly big Hollywood productions when it opens and house a total of 1,080 seats. The main auditorium will hold 770 while the other three will contain 150, 85 and 75 seats.
 
Baltmore City bought the theater three years ago for $810,000 after it went into foreclosure. It sold it to the Cusacks in September at a $310,000 loss.
 
The Cusacks operate the Station North Arts & Entertainment District’s Charles Theater, which shows mostly independent movies. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Kathleen Cusack

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

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 

Brazilian Dance Studio Coming to Charles Street

Baltimore residents looking who want to get fit will soon get to incorporate South American-style martial arts into their workout routine.
 
The Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation will move into a 1,000 square-foot headquarters at 1 North Charles St. by January. Capoeira is an African and Brazilian form of martial arts that incorporates dance, music and song. 
 
ICAF-Baltimore's leader Skher Brown has been planning the move for close to two years after becoming a recipient of a Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.'s Operation Storefront grant. Operation Storefront grants were designed to stimulate business and activity in downtown’s abandoned buildings and were awarded to 10 applicants, including EMP Collective, D Center and Jody Davis Designs. Recipients got, on average, $10,000 each.
 
ICAF-Baltimore was established in 2004 and previously held classes at the Harlem Park Recreation Center and the Sankofa Dance Theater. Recently, Brown has offered classes at Goucher College. Brown says looks forward to having a downtown location and believes it will bring something new to the area.
 
“Capoeira is a great opportunity for physical assertiveness, it’s a form of self expressions,” Brown says. “Everybody can go the gym and knows about Pilates and yoga, but people will want to try something different.”
 
Participants range in age from children to seniors, while the average class size is 12. Classes are $15 but there will eventually be group rates, Brown says. Brown plans on possibly hiring as many as four instructors for the new space. He may also rent out the studio to other types of fitness teachers.  

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Skher Brown, Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation 

Three New Businesses Open in Highlandtown

Three new businesses have opened on South Conkling Street, including a grocery store, clothing shop and art gallery, says Highlandtown Main Street Manager Amanda Smit-Peters.

A refugee-owned Nepalese grocer Druk Grocery, clothing store J and M Fashion Stop and art gallery Anthony's Park Mobile Arts Recycle Center have opened within the last three months. They're the latest to open in the East Baltimore neighborhood, home of arts center the Creative Alliance. The area scored a coup in May when Winston Blick opened an outpost of his popular Hamilton restaurant Clementine at the Creative Alliance.  Community activities, including an art project and a local farmers market, have led business owners to take notice of the area and invest in the neighborhood, Smit-Peters says.
 
Nancy Jagelka's 1,000 square-foot gallery combines her personal studio with an instructional space for children's art classes. 
Jagelka's work and classes focuses on recycled art projects, or work that uses found materials and repurposes them as works of art. The center will offer classes on a donation basis to youth as young as four years old in the recycled arts. The first in a series of workshops will start on Saturday and will focus on mask-masking. 

It doesn't take a lot of money to make art, Jagelka says, but it is a communal process. With the help of a grant from the Baltimore Community Foundation, Jagelka recently organized an intergenerational mural project at Bank and South Conkling Streets in Highlandtown across from Hoehn's Bakery that was a partnership between her art center, the John Booth Senior Center, and Mosaic Makers Inc.
 
The mural was dedicated with an event and children's activities on Oct. 6.

Smit-Peters credits pop-up shops and art projects earlier this year, a series of events where businesses and art projects took over vacant spaces in Highlandtown, as a way of generating new business in the area. Smit-Peters says the new businesses leasing space on the block benefited from business owners who saw increased interest in the area and made improvements to their buildings to attract new tenants. The presence of the weekly farmer's market has also attracted new businesses to the area.
 
"This block feels like what a main street is like. It's nice to see businesses make improvements together," Smit-Peters says.

Following the participation in the pop-up shop project last winter, Jagelka worked with a landlord who she says was very flexible in helping her to establish a permanent location in the neighborhood. 
 
Source: Amanda Smit-Peters, Highlandtown Main Street; Nancy Jagelka, Anthony's Park Mobile Arts Recycle Center.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, alexandra@bmoremedia.com
 
 

The Walters Gets a Java Jolt With New Coffee Bar

For lovers of art and gourmet coffee, a new partnership just might get you buzzing.
 
Q at The Walters, an authentic Seattle-style espresso bar opened this week at The Walters Art Museum. The 300-square-foot espresso bar and cafe serves coffee, pastries, pre-made wraps, salads and sandwiches.
 
"We love this space. I have never been in a museum. It's the first time for my concept," say owner and operator Ashley Stark-McCauley.
 
Stark-McCauley runs three additional coffee bars in the Baltimore area including cafes at Johns Hopkins University and at an office building in Hunt Valley. 

As for expanding, Stark-McCauley says she's scouting other locations in Baltimore and is also considering adding locations in office buildings in New York City.
 
After completing her undergraduate and graduate studies in Seattle and working as a professor, Stark-McCauley says she wants to bring an authentic Seattle coffee experience to her hometown of Baltimore. She launched her first coffee business almost 20 years ago.
 
The model is very different than a traditional business model because she operates inside host institutions that require her to work with existing space as opposed to being able to completely remodel a location, Stark-McCauley says. 
 
Stark-McCauley will add roughly four employees, and has invested $25,000 in launching Q at the Walters.
 
Q at The Walters will be open during regular museum hours, which are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Just announced by the museum are Thursday evening hours when the museum will stay open until 9.pm.
 
She hopes to eventually offer early morning hours for residents of Mount Vernon.
 
Source: Ashley Stark-McCauley, owner of Q at The Walters
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, alexandra@bmoremedia.com

Senator Theatre Could Reopen in the Spring

Construction on the historic Senator Theatre could begin the end of this month or early September now that it has the city's go ahead, says Kathleen Cusack, a co-leasee of the property with her father, Buzz Cusack.

The new Senator with its four movie screens and wine bar could open March 2013, depending on the construction schedule. The city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation OK'd the Cusacks' plan earlier this month. The entire project is costing $3 million, of which the Cusacks are investing $1 million, and the remainder is from a commercial bank loan and city and state funding.

The Cusacks are now in the process of restoring the main lobby. The original wood paneling and mural are under restoration and professional artists have been hired to do the work, she says. Cusack says the restored theater and its additions will open together, and not in phases. 

The Senator Theatre occupies about 65 percent of its lot, leaving a small area for parking in the rear. Cusack says they are expanding the theater by “filling in the corners” of the lot with the construction of the three new theaters and the wine bar.

The main theater “needs a lot of work,” Cusack says. It formerly seated between 800 to 900 people, but the original seats are being replaced with seats that are larger and more comfortable and she expects its seating capacity to be 770 when the work is done.

Cusack leases The Charles Theater, 1711 North Charles St., in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. But Cusack says that plans for the Senator are quite different from the Charles.
 
“The Charles is an art house,” says Cusack, and plays films that are often not shown in other venues in Baltimore.  “The Senator has never been an art house. It has always played big Hollywood products. And, we don’t want to compete with the Charles.”
 
After a competitive process in which four proposals were submitted, Baltimore City last year awarded the Cusacks a 40-year lease on the property. The city bought the theater three years ago after it went into foreclosure. 
 
One of the new auditoriums will have a seating capacity of 150; the other two auditoriums will seat between 60 to 80 people each. “It will be like any movie theater with multiple screens. The auditoriums will play national movies,” like the Senator itself, she says.
 
The wine bar will serve light fare and feature outdoor tables along York Road.
 
“Our vision is to restore the Senator as a beautiful Art Deco movie palace,” says Cusack.
 
Source: Kathleen Cusack, The Senator Theatre
Writer: Barbara Pash

Park Surrounding Merriweather Post Pavilion Could Get $2.25M Upgrade

Columbia officials have drafted a plan to enhance the 16-acre park surrounding Merriweather Post Pavilion to make it a year-round destination for more festivals, art shows and community gatherings and not just primarily a place to see outdoor concerts.

The Columbia Association has approved more than $2 million in spending on walkways, a plaza, additional parking and a central gathering area that will eventually include an interactive fountain and space for performances at Symphony Woods. The nonprofit, which manages the planned community in Howard County, plans to use two state grants totaling $250,000 to pay for the redevelopment.

Construction would begin after the annual Wine in the Woods 2013 in May , says Columbia Association Project Manager Jan Clark. The association has presented its plan to the county planning board, which will deliberate on it July 19. The first phase would be completed by spring 2014.

Right now, Symphony Woods’ star attraction is Merriweather Post Pavilion, whose upcoming concerts include My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver and Gotye. Columbia officials hope to offer more recreational uses once the redevelopment is complete.

“We want to make this one of the leading cultural facilities in the mid-Atlantic,” says Mark Thompson, director of downtown redevelopment for Howard County. “That’s our ambition. I’m very confident we can accomplish this.”

New pathways in the wooded area will make Symphony Woods more pedestrian and bike friendly and connect it with adjacent neighborhoods. The Symphony Woods makeover is one of many long-term projects that Columbia officials are plotting to make it look more like the open-air town center in Reston, Va.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Mark Thompson, Howard County; Jan Clark, Columbia Association 
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