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Vivo Trattoria & Wine Bar opens near Arundel Mills

A new Italian restaurant and wine bar opened last month at the $150 million Arundel Preserve complex near Arundel Mills mall.

The 165-seat Vivo Trattoria Wine Bar serves homemade pasta, artisanal pizza made in a wood-fired oven and 100 to 150 bottles of wine, says General Manager Matthew Santeramo. The restaurant, designed as a Tuscan-style trattoria and enoteca, seats about 60 on the patio and serves 25 wines by the glass. This month, Vivo started offering lunch Monday through Friday. 

Vivo is located inside the Hotel at Arundel Preserve, just on the opposite side of the hotel as the two-year-old Grillfire Arundel restaurant. George Martin owns both restaurants.

“The owner felt there wasn’t enough Italian in the area. There wasn’t much to choose from,” Santeramo says.

Menu items include a crab imperial pizza; brick-oven fired chicken and pasta bolognese. Appetizers and salads start at $8; pizzas, pastas and entrees will start between $12-$17. 
Vivo will be slightly smaller than Grillfire and sport the look of cozy, rustic farmhouse. The restaurant will employ 40 to 50.

Arundel Preserve is an office, residential and retail complex a stone’s throw from Arundel Mills. Maryland Live Casino, which features table games and slots, debuted at the mall last year. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Matthew Santeramo, Grillfire Arundel

Maryland Could Get Road Upgrades to Handle Arundel Mills Casino Traffic

A local transportation firm plans to implement a unique road design to handle additional traffic upon the opening of the Maryland Live Casino at the Arundel Mills Mall this summer.

Casino developer Cordish Cos. has hired White Marsh transportation engineering firm the Traffic Group to analyze and plan what would be Maryland’s first diverging diamond interchange if it receives approval from the state’s highway administration.

The interchange, planned at the intersection of the Baltimore Washington Parkway and Arundel Mills Blvd. should be open in time for the opening of the casino later this year.

This type of interchange can move more vehicles more efficiently, and at a lower cost, Traffic Group President Wes Guckert says. Guckert estimates the cost of the project between $1 million and $2 million.

A diverging diamond interchange works by eliminating competing left turns when coming off a highway.  The interchange allows drivers to make a free left turn as if it were a right turn that creates a diamond-like traffic pattern. The left-turn becomes like a right-turn, which allows more efficiency in movement.

It's the left turn, says Guckert, which often slows down the movement of traffic. Drivers can make twice as many left turns per hour compared to traditional designs with the diverging diamond interchange.

"You create a much safer operating environment for the motoring public, one that is faster and more efficient," Guckert says.

The diverging diamond interchange was first developed and built in France 20 some years ago, but was implemented for the first time in the U.S. in Missouri. Guckert studied the Missouri interchange and decided that it could work in Maryland.

The Traffic Group is now analyzing the possibility of implementing the interchanges at several locations in Maryland.

Writer: Alexandra Wilding
Source: Wes Guckert, the Traffic Group

Phillips Express Location at Maryland Live Could Serve Dim Sum

Phillips Seafood is opening an express location at the $500 million Maryland Live Casino near Arundel Mills next year.

Phillips’ Director of Marketing Michelle Torres compares it to the Phillips Seafood Express it operates in the Maryland House Welcome Center in Aberdeen. She says the company has yet to determine the exact square footage and menu of the new spot, but expects it will serve salads, wraps, crab cakes and possibly dim sum.

Opening in the summer, the casino spot will be located in a food court and offer counter service. It will be the local restaurant and seafood company’s second Cordish Co. location. It opened its new Inner Harbor restaurant at Cordish’s Power Plant this month, after 31 years at Harborplace.

It will be Phillips' sixth express location. The others are located at Boston's Logan International Airport, Atlantic City and FedEx Field. The average express location is between 600 and 1,000 square feet and employs five to 10.

Asked whether Phillips will open other spots in Cordish locations, Torres says she is “very hopeful.”

“We see [Cordish] as a long-term partner.”

The casino is slated to include a restaurant operate by Bobby Flay, a Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Michelle Torres, Phillips

Baltimore gets double shot of comics with Graphic Novelty

After waiting nearly a decade for a new source to feed their love of comic books and graphic novels, Baltimoreans are getting not one but two new options for their fix. We told you last week about the Sept. 2 opening of Alliance Comics in Federal Hill; now we'll fill you in on Graphic Novelty, which is slated to open a week later at 1712 Thames St. in Fells Point.

Co-owners Benjamin Greene and Heiko Spieker call their new labor of love Baltimore's "one-stop geek shop." The shop will offer "anything geeky," Spieker notes, including toys, card games and board games." While shoppers will find mostly new issue comic books and graphic novels at the store, Greene and Spieker will be selling portions of their personal collections and will also allow patrons to sell their own collections on a consignment basis.

Spieker said he and Greene, who owns the Waterfront Hotel and Miss Irene's in Fells Point, had tossed the idea of a comic store around for years. They decided to pounce when the 1712 location was vacated this summer by Fells Point Frame and Design (which moved to a larger location down the street).

"We both have a firm grasp on the realms of geekdom, but there are little subdivisions within our expertise," Spieker notes. "He knows more about Star Trek, while I know more about Star Wars, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But overall I'd say we're about equal."

Spieker says he and Greene designed the shop "to look like comic book in its own way," with yellow and red walls, custom-built black shelving units with plexiglass to allow maximum visibility, and a wrap-around glass counter will display special items. The duo have also set up a gaming room in the back of the store with wireless Internet for patrons to play games.

Interest in the story has already been high, Spieker says.

"We've been keeping the door open as we've been setting up here, and people pop in every day to say their glad we're here." In fact, impromptu visits from parents with their children have persuaded Spieker and Greene to carry kids' book, which wasn't in their original plan.

Spieker chalks up the opening of two comic book stores in Baltimore just one week apart to a case of "great minds thinking alike." He's anticipating the month of October, which will bring with it both the Fells Point Festival and Baltimore Comic-Con � and, hopefully, a lot of foot traffic.

Writer: Lucy Ament
Source: Heiko Spieker, Graphic Novelty

Baltimore sees first new comic book store in a decade

As if Baltimore Comic-Con weren't enough to look forward to, comic book and graphic novel fans can now anticipate the arrival of Alliance Comics, the first comic store to operate in downtown Baltimore in roughly a decade.

Amy and Gerard McNeal Sept. 2 will open the doors of their shop, which is being relocated from Bowie, in what used to be Theodore's Cleaners at 904 Light Street in Federal Hill. The couple will sell new issue comic books and graphic novels ("silver" and "golden" age materials and back issues are available only at the couple's Silver Spring store), as well as toys, tee-shirts, card games, and merchandise related to video games (but not the games themselves).

Amy says the store will carrying "stuff for the littlest reader, stuff for grownups, and stuff in between."

"Comics in general are a great thing for established readers and new readers alike," Amy says. "There are so many different types, from action adventure to super heros, to science fiction. There's a lot more than people generally think there is."

Shoppers at Alliance Comics, which will host a grand opening on Oct.10 during the weekend of Comic-Con, should expect a visual feast, Amy notes. The couple painted the store in a silver-grey tone and used mostly black shelving.

"We were going for a monochromatic background with a clean, modern feeling because our product is so colorful," Amy says. "The comics have such vibrant covers they need no enhancement or competition."

The McNeals started their comic store business 13 years ago, harnessing Amy's retail knowledge with Gerard's passion for comics. "I knew virtually nothing about comics!" Amy says. "I did a lot of reading to learn about them so I can help explain them to people and help them fit their needs."

The couple, both originally from Baltimore, have been itching to get back to the city for awhile.

"In the last five to ten years, Baltimore has really changed and grown as a city from what we knew growing up," Amy says. "It had a lot of problems back in the day that have become less of an issue now. We're fond of it; it's a fun place."

Writer: Lucy Ament
Source: Amy McNeal, Alliance Comics

Ambitious slots facility proposed south of Ravens' stadium

Baltimore City Entertainment Group has said it will prepare by next month revised plans to build a 3,750-machine gaming facility that will include two restaurants and a bar and employ more than 900 people.

Preliminary plans for "Celebration Casino," which would be built south of M&T Bank Stadium on the site of the demolished Maryland Chemical Co. on Russell Street, were presented by BCEG to a state regulatory panel on Aug. 26. The facility is more ambitious than the one initially proposed by BCEG in February, which entailed a 500-maching facility two blocks away from the newly proposed site. The revised bid would require an additional $19.5 million license fee.

State officials are working to identify recipients of slots licenses at five locations in Maryland and have slated their announcement for November. BCEG was reportedly the only bidder for the Baltimore license.

BCEG's plan for the casino includes 9,000 square feet of gaming space, a 400-seat buffet, a 120-seat chop house, a 100-seat bar with live entertainment, and a 2,500-space parking garage. BCEG has told state regulators that it could have the facility operational by mid-2011 and generate about $500 million during the first year of business, about $333 million of which would be retained by the state. It added that, by 2015, gross revenue should rise to more than $650 million, of which the state would retain nearly $430 million and the city, $19.5 million. The construction is expected to create 2,000 construction jobs over roughly 18 months.

Writer: Lucy Ament
Source: Baltimore City Entertainment Group
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