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Harborplace Makeover to Include More Activity on Light Street

Hailed as a landmark urban redevelopment project, downtown Baltimore mall Harborplace has inspired cities throughout the world to create similar waterfront retail destinations. It was featured on the cover of Time magazine when it debuted in 1980 as the publication declared visionary developer James Rouse "the man who made cities fun again."
But in the last decade, the downtown mall lost some of its luster as other pockets of the city, like Harbor East, gained ground. It was plagued with vacancies documented in numerous newspaper articles, including one written by yours truly.
In recent years, it has steadily gained new tenants like Urban Outfitters and H&M that have made the mall more appealing to locals who call downtown home and not just tourists.
This summer, the mall's Light Street pavilion will get a McCormick World of Flavors, Ripley's Believe it or Not, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and a newly remodeled J. Paul's Restaurant and food court.

Ripley's spokesman Tim O'Brien says it is making a "multimillion-dollar investment" to open the 12,500-square-foot museum, mirror maze and 4-D theater the first week in June. Kathleen Haley, McCormick's director of corporate brand and communications, says the first-of-its kind store will feature interactive exhibits on the company's spices and a kitchen demo area. Once it gets the new tenants, Harborplace will be nearly maxed out on space. It will have just one spot left for a restaurant on the second floor.
With 14.2 million visitors last year, Harborplace & the Gallery is still the city's top tourist attraction. Christopher Schardt, the mall's senior general manager, talked to Bmore Media about the mall's makeover.
Bmore Media (BM): What's the overall goal for Harborplace?
Schardt: Primarily new tenanting of the Light Street pavilion. The interest is much stronger from new restaurants and retailers. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. will open in the next 60 days in the former Phillips location.
The Phillips buffet has been converted into a food court. There's a brand new food hall that will have access to Light Street. There will be seating on the sideway facing Light Street.  The city is redefining the Jones Falls Trail in the next couple of months. There will be windows and an opportunity to dine outside up against the bike trail.
BM: So Light Street will be a new focal point?
Schardt: We're trying to reenergize it. McCormick will have cooking demonstrations facing Light Street. McCormick and the Food Court and Urban Outfitters will have access doors [to light Street'. There will be a lot of street activity and energy going back and forth.
Light Street has always been the back of the house. We want to keep the energy going on the street, with the Hyatt hotel and convention center nearby. We have an opportunity to put a face on Light Street so visitors know we exist. There's a lot more street activity than in the past and we want to be a part of it.
BM: And there's a lot more competition?
Schardt: There's more competition. When we opened in 1980 there wasn't a lot of competition. We welcome the competition. We're refreshing our space and it's all coming together very quickly.
BM: A lot of waterfront properties throughout the country are refreshing their spaces. Why do you think that's necessary?
Schardt: All properties whether you're a waterfront [mall] or a shopping center, if you don't change with time, you won't survive. What we are doing today is different from 1980 when it opened up. 

BM: What is the plan with the food court:
Schardt: Subway way will move downstairs. We'll get new Chinese [food] and Italian. The food court is the second largest renovation [after Ripley's]. There's more construction since the original construction in 1980. 

BM: What other new tenants can we expect?
Schardt: The flag shop that was in Light Street is opening up in Pratt Street, on the Cheesecake [Factory] side. Paciugo Gelato is opening in the next couple of weeks. We're offering a lot of new things this year. With everything going on downtown, like the Bicentennial Celebration, this should be a phenomenal summer. 


Christopher Schardt, senior general manager for Harborplace and The Gallery / Photo by Steve Ruark.

Artist rendering of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Harborplace.

Artist rendering of Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Harborplace.
Artist rendering of Harborplace food court.
Artist rendering of Harborplace food court.
Artist rendering of Harborplace food court.

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