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Developer Plots For-Profit Recreation Center In West Baltimore

A former furniture warehouse in West Baltimore's Franklin Square neighborhood could be transformed into a community building and recreation center.
Pending approval from the city's zoning board, a two-story, 33,000 square-foot vacant building at 5 N. Calhoun St. could become a for-profit recreation center, says property owner and developer Cecil Clarke.
The plan comes amid the permanent closures this month of four city-operated recreation centers in West Baltimore due to budget cuts.
Clarke says he believes the area around the proposed recreation center is poised for tremendous growth and revitalization after years of delayed progress on projects like the Red Line and “Superblock."

The warehouse location at North Calhoun and West Baltimore Streets is less than a mile from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Nearby on Baltimore Street, 17 new businesses including a coffee shop have opened in the past two years, Clarke says.
The amount and diversity of development projects makes Clarke feel optimistic about the city's future.
Despite Clarke's optimism, the "Superblock" project has faced hurdles over the past decade and Maryland's highest court has only recently dismissed a lawsuit trying to block the proposed $152 million apartment and retail project near Lexington and Howard Streets. 
Clarke revealed few details about the project and the prospective tenant could not be reached for comment. The project will go before the city's zoning and appeals board Sept. 18.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]
Source: Cecil Clarke, property developer

Mount Vernon Coffee House to Open Across From Starbucks

Coffee connoisseurs looking for in-house roasting in Midtown will soon have a specialty coffee shop for espresso fixes and coffee cravings.
TriBeCa Coffee signed a lease for a 1,300 square-foot space at 1210 N. Charles St. where owner James Jean will spend as much as $250,000 to open the 30-seat coffee lovers paradise. Jean expects to open the Mount Vernon shop by early November.
TriBeCa is one of a number of artisan and specialty coffee shops that have opened recently in Baltimore. This summer, Spike Gjerde's Artifact Coffee opened in Hampden and Lamill Coffee opened at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore.
Located near the University of Baltimore close to the intersection of Charles and East Preston Streets, TriBeCa coffee will feature coffee beans from multiple origins, various brewing methods and store-roasted coffee beans.
Jean was drawn to the location for its ample foot traffic due to its proximity to nearby universities such as the Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Baltimore and Peabody Institute.
But Jean will face serious competition from national coffee chain Starbucks, which has a location across the street. By offering coffee at a lower price point, in-house roasting and a complete remodel of a former beauty salon, Jean hopes to encourage customers to get their coffee from TriBeCa as opposed to Starbucks.
A former registered nurse, Jean decided to change careers after two years of nursing and learned how to roast coffee while working in the roasting division of Vermont Artisan Coffee and Tea Co.
He traveled across the country researching how to run his first specialty coffee shop. He plans to hire five employees to work as baristas. 
Source: James Jean, owner of TriBeCa Coffee
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

New Hotel and Retail Building Slated For Harbor East

Hoping to capitalize on increasing growth east of the Inner Harbor, plans are in the works to build a new 205-room hotel with ground-level stores in Harbor East next year. 

Englewood LLC and Chesapeake Real Estate Group have reached an agreement to construct the property and 15,000 square-feet of retail space at a former warehouse building at 511 S. Central Ave. As the primary developer, Englewood will own and operate the hotel.

Chesapeake Real Estate Group will operate the retail space, says Ken Finkelstein, president of Bethesda's Englewood LLC. Construction would take about 18 months to complete if the project gets approvals from the city's zoning and design panels.

The planned hotel will be an upper mid-market brand, which means slightly more upscale than the neighboring Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott, Finkelstein says. He declined to say how much the project would cost or the hotel brand. 

The developers purchased the property at 511 S. Central Ave. in December for $3.2 million, according to state property records. The building is in the preliminary stages of the development process so it's too early to say what kind of shops  will fill the new construction, says Neil Tucker, principal at Chesapeake Real Estate Group.

"This is a pretty dynamic area where lots of growth has occurred and more will occur as Harbor East and Harbor Point expand," says Finkelstein, who launched the development firm within the last year. Finkelstein is a former partner at the JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase, which has developed numerous hotels in the Washington area. 

Finkelstein's new Baltimore hotel will face competition from the 256-room Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, which opened last year in Harbor East, and several other newer properties. But Finkelstein says he believes there is opportunity and room for another hotel in that neighborhood given the area's continued growth. 

Baltimore City officials approved a 3 million-square-foot master plan for Harbor Point, an area between Harbor East and Fells Point. The massive 500,000-square-foot regional headquarters for Chicago energy company Exelon Corp. will open there in 2014. Harbor East has seen an influx of national retailers with the recent openings of J. Crew, Anthropologie and MAC Cosmetics and new restaurants. Gordon Biersch is spending $3 million to open a 329-seat eatery in October while Fleet Street Kitchen will open next month. 
Chesapeake Real Estate Group developed the Babgy Building, which houses Fleet Street, Ten Ten restaurant and several offices.  

"We want to build upon the success of Harbor East with the Babgy Building project," Tucker says.

Source: Ken Finkelstein, president of Englewood LLC; Neil Tucker, principal at Chesapeake Real Estate Group 
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

New Federal Hill Cafe Serves All-Day Breakfast

Federal Hill residents can now get a breakfast fix morning, noon and night.
Light Street Café opened this month at 1121 Light St., serving breakfast all day Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 2 a.m. on weekends.
The roughly 1,000-square-foot space seats 24 but mainly serves as a carryout. Menu items include Town N’ Country coffee and espresso, pancakes, omelets, sandwiches, soups and salads. Meals are modestly priced, like two pancakes for $3.99, three-egg omelets served with bread and home fries for $5.49 and a corned beef or turkey Rueben melt with chips and a pickle for $7.99.
Co-owner Chris Tipton and his wife Norma had wanted to open a café for years and have gotten a good response so far from neighbors. One of the biggest compliments from people who live in Federal Hill is that they’re happy it’s not another bar,” Chris Tipton says.
Light Street Café currently employs eight and will possibly hire more after the business proves successful.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Sources: Chris Tipton

Federal Hill Sports Shop Hopes For Home Run in New Location

A Federal Hill sports apparel shop is hoping to score with sports fans after moving to a spot that puts it closer to M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards.
Bobabooi’s Treasure Chest sells mostly Ravens, Orioles, Natty Boh and Terps gear and will also sell Washington Capitals gear starting in September. Prices range from $5-$100.
Bobabooi’s Treasure Chest relocated from 1129 Light St. to the 500 square-foot location at 1028 South Charles St. when they couldn’t obtain a long-term lease from the previous landlord, Co-owner Angela Lauta says.
Angela and her husband Dan also wanted to find a location closer to the stadium. The Light Street location drew less foot traffic as most of the crowds would gravitate to the bars and eateries, Angela says. The new store is painted bright Orioles orange. 
But the Lautas still wanted to stay in Federal Hill. “There’s no other [stores] around here that just sell sports gear,” Angela says. “We enjoy the fun, festive environment and the diverse crowds.”
They originally considered opening a vintage clothing store but then saw a need for sports apparel. Selling sports apparel also matched their backgrounds in sports as Angela played basketball and track in college and Dan played college football and attended the Giant’s training camp.
The Lautas run the shop themselves and would like to expand and hire more employees once their year-old business grows. They are currently looking for a social media intern to work a couple hours each week, taking pictures of new merchandise and promoting Bobabooi’s online.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Angela Lauta, Bobabooi's Treature Chest 

Baltimore Burger Bar Relocating to New Spot on Hampden's Avenue

Baltimore Burger Bar, a restaurant specializing in farm-to-table 'foodie' burgers, plans to relocate  from its present location on the Avenue in Hampden to another spot on the same street with a larger kitchen.

Store Owner Anisha Jagtap says she is spending $50,000 on the move and renovation and hopes to open the new location by the end of September.
The new space is currently zoned as retail space and Jagtap will go before the city's zoning board Aug. 21 for approval.
Currently housed in a two-story, 1,400-square-foot space at 830 W. 36th St., Baltimore Burger Bar will relocate to 840 W. 36th St. to a 1,200-square-foot space.

Jagtap also plans to construct a 166-square-foot addition as well as provide outdoor seating, making the overall space larger and more conducive to table service. The additions and renovations are pending approval and are scheduled to happen along with the restaurant opening this fall. 

Jagtap says that in the current spot, table service is difficult because space is limited downstairs and guests have to sit upstairs. The new location will also have an upgraded kitchen. She says the landlord in the new location was more willing to work with her to make changes to the space, where that hopes to remain for the long-term.    
The Burger Bar sources their food locally and offers "not the average burger," Jagtap says. A current menu item includes "The Squash Blossom," which includes grassfed beef, stuffed squash blossom, smoked bacon, chevre, and strawberry basil ketchup.
At the new location, Jagtap plans to take a "classic French approach" to the menu that is still developing, and offer coursed dinners throughout the week. She also plans to add organic, cage-free chicken wings.
Additionally, Jagtap plans to add wait staff to double her staff from three to six.
Source:  Anisha Jagtap, owner and executive chef of Baltimore Burger Bar.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

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]

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] 

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

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]
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