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Marketplace at Fells Developer Sprucing Up Facades on Broadway

Construction on the massive Marketplace at Fells Point project will close sidewalks and parking spaces of the westside of the 600 block of South Broadway Street for the next year as the developer works to preserve building facades in the neighborhood. 
The renovation of building facades or exteriors is part of the development plan to preserve the streetscape that has been there for 100 years, says Drew Dolben, senior vice president for Massachusetts developer the Dolben Co. Inc..
The developer is also constructing an entirely new building as part of the $40 million Marketplace at Fells Point project that broke ground in May. The project will eventually include 159 apartment units and more than 27,000 square-feet of retail space. Dolben acquired the rights to build the housing and retail portion of the project from Dave Holmes earlier this year. 
Dolben expects for tenants and residents to begin moving into the development within the next 15 months with the entire project completed in 20 months.
The smaller building on the eastside of Broadway will open first and the building on the westside will follow shortly after, Dolben says.
Meanwhile, in  Anne Arundel County, the Dolben Co. plans to complete its Village at Odenton Station before the end of September. 

The company has signed a lease with a dry cleaner and in currently in negotiations with a restaurant at the location. The company plans to have a mix of retail similar to a traditional main street including a coffee shop, a nail salon, a hair stylist, a spa  and a total of three restaurants.
Source: Drew Dolben, senior vice president for the Dolben Co. Inc. 
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

West Coast Fitness Studio To 'Pop' in Baltimore

Downtown Baltimore will have a new fitness venue with West Coat flair this fall.
Pop Physique, an exercise studio franchise that originated in Los Angeles will add a studio at 339 North Charles St. Sept. 10. Owner Kim Quinn plans on opening more Pop Physique studios in the city within a year, looking at possible locations in Federal Hill, Fells Point, or Hampden.
Created by former professional ballet dancer Jennifer Williams, Pop Physique classes are hour-long workouts that combine ballet, Pilates and light weight work designed to tone and sculpt the body.
Quinn, originally from upstate New York, wanted to open a Pop Physique somewhere on the east coast and chose Baltimore. “I did research on Baltimore about its young urban population. It fits our targeted age demographic of 25-to-40-year-olds,” Quinn says.
According to Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., more than half of all Baltimore residents are between the ages of 31 and 54. 
Pop Physique instructors from California will come to Baltimore next month and select five local instructors after a tryout. Quinn will also be trained as an instructor.
Each class holds 20 people. New clients can get 30 days of unlimited classes for $100. Other package deals will be available as well.

The Baltimore will be Pop Physique’s 13th location nationwide.
Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Kim Quinn, Pop Physique

Canton Gets a New Sushi Bar

There's a new place for Canton residents to indulge their cravings for sashimi and a spicy tuna roll.
The Sushi Place opened this month at 2224 Fleet St. in a space formerly occupied by Tijuana Tacos.
The business is the first restaurant for co-owners Billy Malkin and Eugene McDowell who  work as contractors. Construction and renovation on the location started three months ago and the space has been totally gutted and remodeled as a 23-seat restaurant, says Manager Ron Choi.
The Sushi Place offers of menu of nigiri, sashimi, and specialty rolls, which include a spider roll with deep-fried soft shell crab and spicy mayo and the yellowtail basil roll made with yellowtail and topped with mozzarella cheese, tomato, and balsamic vinegar.
Prices for the specialty rolls range from $12 to $15, and appetizers range from $4 to $7.
Choi says restaurant management aspires to specialize in great customer service and wants to create a friendly, neighborhood sushi bar atmosphere.
"We kind of felt that when people come home they don't want to leave their parking spots, so we kinda felt like this is a good idea. We'll specialize in the people that live around Canton. It's a great neighborhood, great people live in Canton," Choi says.
The restaurant employs 10 and is currently hiring for sushi chefs, delivery people and servers.
The Sushi Place opens daily at 12 p.m., and closes at 9 p.m. except on Saturdays and Sundays when it stays open until 11 p.m.
Source: Ron Choi, manager of The Sushi Place
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

New Food Truck To Deliver African and Caribbean Foods

Baltimoreans who grab lunch on the go will soon have authentic West African and Caribbean food on the menu.
Baltimore resident Kia Tangara, a native of Mali, will start operating food truck Motherland Mobile Kitchen in various locations downtown Aug. 15.
Motherland will operate during the week in the morning until 3 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. depending on business. The selection will include African, Caribbean and American dishes including lamb, tilapia, plantains, chicken, cassava leaves and rice, couscous, lamb and chicken gyros and kabobs. All dishes will be priced between $5 and $10.
Tangara promises fresh ingredients. “It’s about buying everything fresh, cooking with fresh foods, and using different spices,” Tangara says. She will order lamb from a Philadelphia farm and is searching for venues in the Baltimore area that can supply fresh meat.
Tangara purchased her food truck in Philadelphia for $25,000 after comparing prices on Foodtruck.com. She plans to keep Motherland as a food truck rather than opening a physical eatery.
“It’s like having a restaurant already, but you don’t have to worry about paying high prices for electric or gas,” Tangara says. “A restaurant can deliver food, but with a food truck, people get to know you personally and follow you.”
Tangara would like to purchase a second food truck within the next six months for family members to operate in Virginia under her guidance. Tangara would like to eventually have a handful of food trucks, turning Motherland Mobile Kitchen into a small-scale company.
Tangara is currently searching for two employees: a driver and someone to run the grill.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Kia Tangara, Motherland Mobile 

Higher-Ed Startup StraighterLine Moving Out of ETC

StraighterLine, a Baltimore startup that recently got $10 million in venture funding, will soon move out of its incubator into a place of its own.

Seeking to accommodate its expanding staff, the company plans to relocate as early as Aug. 1 to a new, 6,000-square-foot office, tripling its space, says Marketing Manager, Steven Pope.
Its current space in The Johns Hopkins University Eastern Campus at 1101 E. 33rd St. in Waverly is 1,900 square feet and part of the Emerging Technology Center.
The company is still firming up a location, but the new space will be "five to 10 minutes away" from its present office, Pope says. 
"(We are) trying to capitalize on the market's readiness for a change in the education industry. We're trying to become the Amazon of online education. That's obviously a big goal, but we're one step closer to achieving it this year because of our expansions," Pope says.
The relocation is being supported by a $10 million investment to the company made in part by FirstMark Capital, a New York venture capital firm. CityLight Capital and Chrysalis Ventures also contributed to the investment.
Since the beginning of the year, the company has grown from 11 employees to its current staff of 22. It plans to grow to 30 employees in the next few months, Pope says.
The company is currently hiring subject matter experts and marketing and  software development staff.
StraighterLine provides entry-level, online college courses for credit in a variety of subjects. They follow a self-paced, independent study approach to online learning. Students can transfer courses taken at StraighterLine to a variety of partner colleges that offer degrees.
Pope says that with students facing mounting college debt, the company aims to offer low-cost and low-risk college credit options.
CEO Burck Smith founded the company in 2009 after launching Smarthinking, an online tutoring company.
Source: Steven Pope, marketing manager.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

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 

Patterson Park Charter To Complete Construction This Summer

Patterson Park Public Charter School will use $50,000 in state bond funding this summer to complete the construction and renovation of its facilities, says Patterson Park Public Charter School Executive Director Ed Rutkowski.
Specifically, the funds will be used to renovate the facade of the original St. Elizabeth Church on East Baltimore Street facing Patterson Park, a building purchased by the school and used as its cafeteria, gym, library, tech lab and business offices.
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation through the National Trust for Historic Preservation provided matching funds of $50,000 toward the renovation.
"It's great for the neighborhood to have it looking good…we're restoring it to its former glory," Rutkowski says.
The school acquired the St. Elizabeth Church building in 2008. In 2009, planning began for the expansion and improvement of the school site including renovations to the church and the construction of a new middle school building.
Since then, the state issued $13.7 million of tax exempt bonds, and that money was used for the acquisition of the original church building, and construction of middle school building which includes six classroom, an act facility and a science lab.
The renovation of the facade will complete construction of the school site. The facade renovations required the removal of lead paint, necessitating additional funding to complete the project.
The school removed the form stone on the front of the cafeteria building, and plans to restore the facade to its original appearance. The church was built in 1895.
Representatives from Baltimore’s 46th Legislative District helped the school secure the funding, Rutkowski says.
The school serves 621 students and their families in grades pre-K through 8.
Source:  Ed Rutkowski, executive director of Patterson Park Public Charter School
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Taco and Tequila Spot Opens in Federal Hill

A new business in Federal Hill aims to serve up Mexican fare with tacos and tequila.
Banditos, a 160-seat restaurant opened last week at 1118 S. Charles St. in the space formerly occupied by the Taco Spot, says General Manager Ellen Provins.
Owners Sean White and Andrew Dunlap spent a month renovating the space which includes new flooring and a bar custom made from old tobacco barn wood from Maryland, Provins says.
Provins believes that Banditos' location in the “heart of Federal Hill” near Cross Street Market and across the street from Mother’s will draw a lot of customers.
"Anyone who comes to Federal Hill, comes here," Provins says.
The menu at Banditos consists of tacos, quesadillas and appetizers. Taco options include grilled mahi-mahi with papaya salsa, harissa, and corn nuts and buffalo mushroom tacos with grilled celery, pickled peppers and blue cheese.  The tacos range in price from $6 to $14.
Unlike other restaurants that serve Mexican fare, Provins says Banditos serves "foodie" tacos, or those made with more gourmet ingredients.
Chefs Matt Singer and Cyrus Keefer, the former executive chef at 1524 Gastropub, created the menu at Banditos. Singer serves as the executive chef at Banditos.
The restaurant has an extensive tequila menu including blancos, reposados, anejo, and mezcals. They also offer specialty cocktails like a margarita verde and a Jalisco sour. 
The restaurant employs 27 employees and management expects to hire more employees in the fall.
Source: Ellen Provins, general manager of Banditos
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected] 

Columbia Mall Expansion Could Begin in January

Construction on the Mall in Columbia’s expansion could begin as early as mid-January, according to Howard County officials. The 75,000-square-foot addition will add new shops and restaurants at the shopping center that is near 100 percent occupancy.

The makeover will add more outdoor space, landscaping and pedestrian-friendly design so it resembles more of a lifestyle center, says Mark Thompson, director of downtown redevelopment for Howard County.

"Consumers really enjoy that outdoor shopping experience," Thompson says. "Enhanced landscaping areas for sitting are very popular."

Those are some of the components of the Wegmans-anchored Hunt Valley Towne Centre and Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, though mall officials say Columbia's plans aren't modeled on any specific shoppng center. 

General Growth Properties Inc., the mall's owner, will reopen the original mall entrance so patrons can walk directly from the mall to the pedestrian bridge that connects to the lakefront area across the street, says Mall in Columbia Marketing Manager Michelle Jose.

The mall’s first phase will be completed by the end of 2013. Jose says she does not yet know when the second phase will begin and could not say what new shops the expanded mall will hold. Nordstrom, Macy’s and JC Penney are among the 1.4 million-square-foot mall’s anchor tenants. It also has an Apple store, P.F. Chang’s and Cheesecake Factory.

The construction plans will likely include a smaller L.L. Bean to make room for the new tenants, Thompson says. At about 15,000 square feet, the outdoor clothing and recreation store will be about half the size. 

The mall’s expansion is one component of Columbia’s long-term redevelopment plan that calls for more open, walkable space so it resembles something like Reston, Va.

“The vision is to create a more urbanized area,” Thompson says. “The mall is a key component of downtown.”

The county’s planning board will hold a hearing on the mall’s expansion. The mall plans must also go through the county’s design advisory panel. 

Writer: Julekha Dash; [email protected]
Sources: Michelle Jose, Mall in Columbia; Mark Thompson, Howard County 

Downtown Baltimore's Ruth's Chris Steak House Adds Outdoor Lounge

The options for outdoor dining in Baltimore just got bigger.

Downtown Baltimore’s Ruth’s Chris Steak House at the Pier V Hotel expanded last month with a waterfront patio and bar. The addition also includes a 100-seat dining area that will hold private events and handle the overflow business it gets on Valentine’s Day and other busy nights, Owner Steve DeCastro says.

The restaurateur says he spent about $250,000 on furniture, landscaping, kitchen equipment and retractable awnings. The money was also spent on gutting out the interior of the space, which has held a number of different eateries over the years. Most recently, it held Pizzazz Tuscan Grille.

DeCastro says the Pier V Hotel owners had repeatedly asked him to expand his restaurant to take over the 1,700-square-foot spot. But then they finall made him a deal he couldn’t refuse, DeCastro says.

The restaurant will start offering live music this week in the 112-seat lounge and deck, including steel and three-piece bands, and serve a lite-fare menu. Items cost between $9 and $17.

“I think the patio is the best view of the city and I got a great deal on it,” DeCastro says. “We turned it into a beautiful space.”

Meanwhile, the restaurant owner is one of many who are recovering from the deadly storms that left more than 600,000 without power. DeCastro, who owns four Ruth’s Chris restaurants in Greater Baltimore, reopened his Annapolis eatery July 5, after five days without power.

He estimates he lost at least $100,000 in business. Because he had to sanitize and prepare everything from scratch, it was like opening a new restaurant. 

De Castro owns a second downtown Baltimore Ruth's Chris on Water Street and one in Pikesville. 

Writer: Julekha Dash; [email protected]
Source: Steve De Castro, Ruth's Chris Steak House

Affordable Housing Push Underway In Park Heights

The state has created a community land trust for the Park Heights area of Baltimore City to ensure affordable housing in an area that is undergoing redevelopment.

The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation approved the community land trust in April, the first in the state, according to Will J. Hanna II, president and CEO of The New Park Heights Community Development Corp. Inc. The CDC  will administer the trust. The community land trust designates a specific area in the Park Heights community for development of affordable housing for 99 years. Area nonprofits and the CDC are working to redevelop the area with new services and buildings while a new workforce training program is seeking to lower the area's high unemployment. 
Two property owners have donated 100 vacant houses within the community land trust boundaries to the nonprofit to begin the affordable housing effort.
Hanna says he is negotiating with two investors who are interested in buying and redeveloping 50 houses each. He declined to provide names. He is also talking to two banks, SunTrust and Wells Fargo, about closing and development costs.
Hanna says the nonprofit, which was founded in 1999, expects to have a purchase commitment by next month.
 The federal Housing and Urban Development department’s home program determines the selling price for houses in the land trust. Currently, that price is set at $80,000 to $125,000 per property, a rate based on median income and affordability of the housing stock in the community at the time.
Hanna says the community land trust area stretches from Seven Mile Lane to Druid Park Drive. The 100 vacant houses are scattered within this broad area. He estimates the average value of each property at $40,000, with some of the houses little more than shells.
He figures the average cost of redeveloping the houses will be $60,000 each. The nonprofit will retain ownership of the land, and intends to charge ground rent.
Hanna talks about the tax advantage to the property-owners who donated the houses, home-buyers and private investors who redevelop them.
By donating the houses to the community land trust, the property-owners received a tax exemption. Whoever buys a house in the land trust will be exempt from state taxes during the life of the land trust.
For investors who buy the properties to redevelop, 80 percent of the development cost is not taxable. Moreover, the nonprofit can issue IRS certificates to reduce tax liability.
Source: Will J. Hanna II, The New Park Heights Community Development Corp., Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Vintage Clothing and Second-Hand Store Planned Near Station North

After 15 years of collecting one-of-a-kind and second-hand items from her travels, entrepreneur Mary Garcia plans to open a store dedicated to affordable uniqueness this August in the Barclay neighborhood near the Station North Arts & Entertainment District in Baltimore.
Garcia says she invested more than $50,000 in the merchandise and renovation of Old All-Around Vintage Finds, which she plans to open at 2129 St. Paul St. following a hearing at the city's zoning board August 7.
Garcia wants to create a place where the past meets the present where everyone from bargain hunters to vintage clothing lovers to children will find something at the new store. 
"This has been my dream. This is it," Garcia says.
The store will sell vintage women's clothing including fashions from the 1920s, 1960s and 1980s. The store will also sell a variety of pieces that Garcia has collected including decorative housewares and collectible dolls.
Garcia wants to improve the surrounding community that she describes as friendly and in-need of small businesses with affordable goods. Garcia also hopes to attract art students and visitors to nearby Station North to her shop.
As part of the renovations to the 900-square-foot space, Garcia added new windows and floor, repaired water damage, and installed French doors from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Baltimore reminds Garcia of her native Dominican Republic, and she plans to relocate to the city from Silver Spring with her teenage daughters. She wants to expose them to the experience of owning a small business.
A first-time business owner, Garcia has worked for the past 25 years in customer service and has an academic background in merchandising and marketing.
Source: Mary Garcia, owner of Old All-Around Vintage Finds.
 Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Live Jazz and Barbeque Comes to Mount Vernon

Phaze 10 opened this month in Mount Vernon and plans to offer American food, specialty drinks and live entertainment such as jazz and open-mic nights. While the business will start in Baltimore, the company eventually plans to expand to additional locations outside the area, Managing Partner Tony Randall says.
The restaurant currently employs 24 and is hiring for additional bartenders, servers and cooks. 
The multi-level, 6,000-square-foot, upscale restaurant and carry-out grill at 855 N. Howard St. offers Southern food with a Caribbean twist including barbeque spare ribs, salmon and crab cakes, Randall says.
Prices range from $15 to $25 for an entree in the restaurant, and entrees from $5 to $15 in the grill carryout location.
Randall wants to create a location for a mature crowd that enjoys the atmosphere and nightlife of D.C. or Philadelphia, but with the unique spirit of Baltimore and closer to home.
"We tried to create a place that we imagined we'd like to go to," Randall says.
The restaurant will focus on bringing live jazz and neo-soul acts in addition to open-mic nights and comedy. It has live entertainment slated Wednesday through Saturday nights.
A Baltimore native and graduate of Morgan State University, Randall has long been involved with the music and entertainment industry in Baltimore. A 30-year IT professional, Randall and his business associates founded a computer-consulting firm, TT Systems Inc. and the partners have invested in the new business together.
Source: Tony Randall, managing partner of Phaze 10
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Design Center Moves to Station North

A design collaborative composed of university officials and architects have found a permanent home at the North Avenue Market building in Station North.
D Center members moved this month from their temporary home at 218 W. Saratoga St. in downtown Baltimore to the 3,500-square-foot spot at 16 W. North Ave. Money from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts is funding the move and D Center programming, which will include exhibits, lectures and other events that will involve collaboration among artists, architects and academics, says D Center Board President Klaus Philipsen.
During the past year, D center collaborated with numerous partners, including the Creative Alliance’s Art to Dine For series, the Transmodern Festival, and Wide Angle Youth Media. D center has also formed ongoing partnerships with area colleges and universities, who use D center’s exhibition and meeting space to conduct classes and hold design reviews.
D center has also formed ongoing partnerships with area colleges and universities, who use D center’s exhibition and meeting space to conduct classes and hold design reviews.

Home to Liam Flynn’s Ale House and Baltimore Print Studios, the North Avenue Market is undergoing a $1 million makeover. The addition of D Center is the latest development in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District that has seen a number of new restaurants, housing and shops in recent years. One of its long-vacant buildings is getting a Flemish beer-themed restaurant and a Milk and Honey Market.

Writer: Julekha Dash; [email protected]
Source: Klaus Philipsen

Union Craft Brewing to Open Next Month

A new, locally brewed beer is coming to a pub near you.
After months of preparation, Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry will launch two styles of beer this month. The brewery also plans to open its tasting room to the public in mid-July. Union Craft is one of several new breweries and beer-themed restaurants to debut in the last year. 
On June 29, Union Craft Brewing will launch Duckpin Pale Ale and Balt Altbier, a German-style Altbier at a launch party at Max's Taphouse in Fell's Point. The beers will be on draft and also in specialty firkins, or small kegs, with slight variations to the original which make them one-off rarities, says Union Craft Brewing Co-owner Jon Zerivitz.
"I'm super excited, really nervous, but really ready to take the plunge into this. I'm feeling incredibly humbled and grateful for the support the city has shown us so far," Zerivitz says.
Following the launch, kegs of the two styles of beer will roll out to "better beer bars around the city," Zerivitz says.
The company launched with an $800,000 investment from private sources and Zerivitz says it has taken the whole investment to build the company.
Located in a 7,200-square-foot space in Woodberry right outside of Clipper Mill and near the Jones Falls River, Zerivitz says he found an ideal setting to start Union Craft Brewing.
"Manufacturing is often pushed to the outsides of the city. We tried to find a space within city limits. We have a reverence for Baltimore and its history, and Woodberry was ideal," Zerivitz says.
The space was at one time an annex for the original mill and has served a variety of different functions over the years including a furniture company and most recently a large-format sign company.
The tasting room will be open to the public and offer tastings, tours, and beer to-go.
Zerivitz started Union Craft Brewing with co-owner Kevin Blodger, an award-winning brewer with nine years of experience at various breweries in the area.
"Him and I collaborate on recipes…he uses his vast knowledge to make them come alive," Zerivitz says.

The company plans to brew about 1,000 barrels in its first year of operation. They expect to launch a seasonal as well as some special single-batch beers. 

"There is no limit to the number of styles we might produce except for fermentation capacity and demand for our flagship Pale Ale and Altbier. We do also plan to expand the flagship line," Zerivitz says.
Source: Jon Zerivitz, co-owner of Union Craft Brewing
 Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]
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