Harborplace sold a month after city agreement

ripley’s at harborplace

Harborplace, cornerstone of the Inner Harbor’s fabled revival of the 1980s, today features the likes of Ripley’s.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

A month after the city entered into a long-term lease agreement with General Growth Properties (GGP), the company turned around and sold Harborplace to a privately-owned New York real estate firm.

News of the sale to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. – first disclosed today by the Maryland Daily Record – clearly caught the Rawlings-Blake administration off-guard.

Only yesterday did they hear about the sale from Harborplace general manager Christopher Schardt.

Underscoring the importance that is still placed on the aging tourist magnet, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement this afternoon saying she was “absolutely committed” to improving the Inner Harbor pavilions.

Working with the Ashkenazy group, the mayor said, is vital “to continue making progress and to secure Harborplace’s legacy as a source of great pride for the people of Baltimore for years to come.”

Actually, she has little choice.

On September 19, the mayor-controlled Board of Estimates signed an agreement with GGP extending the lease of Harborplace by 33 years, through 2087, in return for “significant capital improvements” to the pavilions.

Did Lease “Sell” the Property?

Securing the lease extension was doubtless a major selling point for GGP, which has been peddling Harborplace without success since 2008.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, especially over the lease extension presumably assumed by Ashkenazy.

Under last month’s extension, Baltimore would get a hefty increase in rental revenue from GGP, plus the commitment to make various improvements, including new exterior awnings on the buildings, upgraded exterior lighting, new landscaping, and repairs to concrete surfaces, including the weather-aged Pratt Street pedestrian bridge.

Earlier this year, GGP sold the Village of Cross Keys on Falls Road to Ashkenazy. The Chicago-based mall owner, which underwent Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2009-10, will retain ownership of the Gallery at Pratt and Calvert streets, just north of the waterfront pavilions.

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  • Gerald Neily

    I got a chuckle from the Harborplace description from the Lenny’s co-owner as “a dinosaur in a lot of areas.” from the huge Sun article on the 26th. With the Ripley monster now draped around the building, he means that literally. The Sun headline calls Harborplace “Iconic” and therein lies the problem. It’s not iconic and never was. Back in its ’80s heyday, people referred to “Rouse’s Inner Harbor” as if Harborplace had made the entire Inner Harbor his. How ridiculous! The Inner Harbor made Harborplace what it was, is and will be, not vice-versa. Harborplace must thus fit into the Inner Harbor, not vice-versa. That becomes clearer every day.

    The Sun’s giant article also reminds me a bit of how the old News American had wall-to-wall Harborplace coverage in its ’80s waning days, trying to tie itself to Rouse’s rising star.Harborplace has always had both tourist and local attractions. Back in the day, the key was mixture. Now it’s just juxtaposition, with Ripley and Lenny’s downscale deli (BTW I LIKE Lenny’s!!!!) being the two extremes. What those two have in common is that neither could have occupied so much square footage back in the ’80s leasing plan. Lenny would have just been a stall or kiosk and Ripley would have been been banished to the Power Plant where Bali’s Gay ’90s Victorian amusement park was well before Phillips moved there.I also got a chuckle out of Reutter’s description as an “aging tourist magnet” – aging as opposed to ageless, like Fort McHenry.or Stonehenge. Now the challenge is to just integrate Harborplace into the city and move on.

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