Aug 24, 2009

summer break

Our blog is on a bit of a hiatus. It will return this fall as part of our newly-redesigned website,


Jun 15, 2009

filene's basement stays open after all

It's kind of confusing but, as you probably know, the Filene's Basement chain has been struggling. It had closed two of its three Baltimore-area stores, leaving only the Downtown Baltimore location at Lockwood Place open.

Last week, a bankruptcy court auctioned Filene's off and the winning bidder, the Men's Wearhouse chain, announced it would close the Downtown store. They didn't say why, and you can never really know in these situations. Of course, people tried to read into it. Was this a blow to Downtown? What's wrong with Downtown that they didn't keep the store open? In all probability, it had to do with what other stores the company already has in the area, its distribution system, or the like. But we'll never really know.

And the point is moot because last week's auction was challenged and the court held a new auction today. This one was won by the clothing retailer, Syms, which, we've been told by insiders, will keep the Downtown store open.

We worked very hard behind the scenes to make this happen, as did the Mayor, BDC, the Lockwood Place developers, and the employees of the Filene's store themselves.

There'll be more about this in the press, I'm sure. For the meantime, let's savor the good news.

-Mike Evitts

Jun 11, 2009

checking out the hotel monaco

Hotel Monaco staff welcoming visitors for a preview tour

We've been fortunate to get preliminary looks at the new Hotel Monaco that's scheduled to open in the historic B&O building (at Charles and Baltimore Streets) in about a month. It's part of the high-end Kimpton hotel chain and they've done a great job building out this unique space.

There will be a little more than 200 rooms with top amenities - lots of marble, plush fabrics, swanky fixtures, and top-of-the-line service.

a view of the new bar, looking down from the upstairs dining level

There will also be a restaurant with its own entrance on Charles Street. It will be casual but upscale. Yesterday, they were unwrapping the furniture and workers were busy installing fixtures for the bar. At the back of the room, which features a two-story atrium in the front and table seating in an open upstairs area, there's another bar and a special pizza oven.

The restaurant will be a welcome addition to this part of City Center which, aside from the Shula's steakhouse just down the block on Baltimore Street, doesn't enjoy a lot of nighttime dining options.

-Mike Evitts

Jun 10, 2009

shuttle launch

The mayor unveiled the new busses and name of the Downtown shuttle. When it begins in late summer / early fall the service will be called the Charm City Circulator.

It'll consist of about 20 clean-energy busses that run on three continuously looping routes. One will go from west Baltimore (near the B&O Museum) through the heart of the Downtown tourist district and terminate in Harbor East. The second will run from South Baltimore (near Cross Street Market) north to Penn Station. The third will run from Harbor East north to the Hopkins medical campus.

Busses will hit stops approximately every 10 minutes and they're equipped with gps messaging so you can get a text sent to your computer or cell phone when one is approaching your stop.

And it's totally free to ride.

We had a lot to do with getting this new service off the ground. From the idea of creating this service itself to identifying a steady source of funding, to bus selection and route determinations. But the credit really goes to the Mayor who felt this is something important for the city to take on. Her department of transportation has worked doggedly to hash out the details and make the circulator a reality.

We hope everyone will give it a try. It's not your typical bus and will deliver superior customer service. Even if you pay to park at your office each day, the circulator will mean you can quickly and easily get to appointments without having to move your car and pay to re-park.

-Mike Evitts

May 27, 2009

summer school: downtown 101

This is the time of year when businesses take on interns or summer associates. We want to help these seasonal hires make the most of their time working downtown and, hopefully, convince them to come back and live / work here when they finish school.

So, we've started a kind of orientation event that includes a reception, a quick presentation, and plenty of resources to find things to do, ways to get around, places to live, and how to network with their peers.

The Economic Alliance and Collegetown Network are our partners this year and will help with the presentations. We did it last year and everyone had a good time.

If your company has a team of interns, or if you're a starving grad student working for slave wages, come by and check this out. Not only will you pick up useful information, it's also possible to eat enough hors d'oeuvres that you can skip dinner that night.

Visit GoDowntownBaltimore for details and to register.

-mike evitts

afternoon baseball

co-worker, Faith, and a friend

There are plenty of good reasons to work downtown but, hands down, my favorite is the businessman's special ... aka, weekday afternoon baseball games.

The O's could get their first sweep of the season when they play the Blue Jays at 1:35. But whether they win or lose is almost beside the point. For a lot of people, these games are about heading to the ballpark when they'd otherwise be at the office. It's the summer equivalent of a snow day.

When everyone takes off for a game, especially a big one like opening day, I bet the only business getting done downtown is in the stands.

So, don't tell my boss, but I'm about to head to Faidley's for a crabcake on my way to Camden Yards. Odds are, I'll bump into him there anyway.

-mike evitts

May 15, 2009

no rust belt here

the American Can Co. (image from the Can Co. website,

Some things stubbornly refuse to go away. Like ailanthus "trees." Or this.

Similarly, there are lingering perceptions about Baltimore, some good (affordable, city of neighborhoods), some trite (funky charm), some harmful (full of crime), and some outdated - that we're a blue collar town, for example.

My relatives worked at American Can and Sparrows Point back when both places provided steady jobs with good pay and benefits. These were old economy jobs that were mostly lost a long time ago, but their ghosts haunt our public image.

More often than not, Baltimore is still thought of, and talked about, as an old industrial city. A blue-collar town. Part of the rust belt. More akin to Cleavland or Pittsburgh than our tawny neighbor 30 miles down the Baltimore/Washington Parkway.

The reality may surprise you.

We just released our annual 2008/2009
State of Downtown Report where, among other data, we track how Downtown compares to other cities across the country. With 40,000 residents within a one-mile radius of the Inner Harbor, we're 7th for population density, ahead of places like Boston, San Diego, Denver, Washington, Atlanta, and Portland.

There are 113,000 jobs in that same area which puts us 16th in the country, ahead of places like Dallas, Miami, and Phoenix.

And we rank 8th for the number of households here that make at least $75,000.

One of our biggest industry concentrations is in life sciences and biotechnology - areas where we expect tremendous job and investment growth over the next several decades. We're also strong in finance, insurance, and real estate jobs - which are holding their own, even in the current down economy.

It's telling that the American Can Company, where my grandfather worked, now houses a technology incubator, along with the kinds of high-end retail, coffee shops, and wine bars that have become signifiers of new economy success.

Looking at Downtown's economic data, you can't help but lose the long-held perception that Baltimore is still a shadow of its former industrial self. True Baltimore is still working class, but these days that refers to entrepreneurialism not steel.

-Mike Evitts