By Melody Simmons
July 16, 2021
The following is an excerpt from the Baltimore Business Journal article.
A top downtown commercial real estate broker says the city’s long-ignored Harborplace is on the threshold of new and local ownership — and a fresh direction.
The turnaround could begin to take place as early as September and would be a boost to the central business district just as workers begin to return to offices following COVID-19 shutdowns, said Terri Harrington, Senior Vice President at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate. It would also lift efforts to lease large gaps of vacant office and retail space downtown and help revive the Inner Harbor waterfront, several top business leaders said this week.
Harrington said that she recently reached out to Ian Lagowitz, the court-appointed receiver for the beleaguered downtown landmark that has been in receivership since May 2019, on behalf of a client who was in search of answers on Harborplace’s future.
A 2019 investigation by the BBJ of Harborplace and its finances, tenants and management showed the development had been plagued by vacancies and other woes for years under former owner New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. prior to plunging into receivership. The pandemic only exasperated the problems.
More than half of the Pratt and Light Street pavilions today are vacant and some tenants like Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Banana Republic abruptly closed shop with leases still open. Others like Johnny Rockets and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. have sued former owner Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. or its subsidiary, AAC HP Realty LLC, for breach of contract.
Real estate brokers like Harrington and several of her colleagues have said for more than a year that they are focused on Harborplace and its future as a means to help return the city’s business and tourist district back to a successful and busy hub.
The brokers say they don’t want to dwell on the failures, but rather focus on the future of restoring Harborplace to a Baltimore-themed destination stocked with local businesses.
“Harborplace is a good example of a wound inflicted by an out-of-town developer that mishandled and mismanaged what had been a prior gem,” said Bob Manekin, managing director at JLL’s Baltimore office. “I’m hearing there is movement now. It is high on the administration’s list at City Hall.”
Donald Fry, President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said the group of business owners and leaders had closely followed the receivership journey of Harborplace for 24 months. The failed status of Harborplace had played a part in the decisions by some corporations to leave their city offices and move elsewhere, he added.
“The Greater Baltimore Committee has in recent years consistently urged city officials and the receiver to pursue new local ownership of Harborplace as a solution to reimagine and reinvigorate this landmark,” Fry said. “A new owner with local roots, a long-term commitment and a transformational vision would provide an excellent opportunity to take the tarnish off this jewel.”
Source: Baltimore Business Journal
- BBJ: Harborplace nears two years in receivership, frustrating Baltimore business, political leaders
- BBJ: Harborplace tenants threatened with eviction if they don’t pay back rent
- Baltimore Business Journal: Saving Harborplace
- GBC’s Don Fry comments in BBJ on Harborplace receiver’s report
- BBJ:Harborplace receiver’s ‘sole focus’ is to make it safe, attractive, GBC’s Fry says