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Renovated 13th Floor Opening This Month

After a season of closure for renovations, the Belvedere's the 13th Floor will open Oct. 4 with a new design and concept.
Known for its dramatic views of Baltimore, the restaurant and lounge located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood has been closed since April.
The restaurant's parent company Belvedere Restaurant Group focused on creating a new look and approach for the space by hiring local PR firm Vitamin to rebrand the spot, Owner Sondra Goad says. The restaurant group is spending $500,000 on the renovations. 
Interior designer Joley King hoped to design a space that combines a modern aesthetic with reminders of the building's historic past including some of the original steel columns. The building will also feature custom designed stained glass as well as artisan steel furniture in a tribute to Baltimore's steel history, Goad says. 
"The 13th Floor will be a place to unwind, to talk, and to connect, while being above the daily grind in one of Baltimore's most historic landmarks," Goad says.
Goad says the bar and restaurant will cater to an upscale crowd as well as expanding the uses of the space to focus on private, catered events and wedding parties.
A Beaux Arts style building, the Belvedere is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The former hotel was the premier lodging in Baltimore in the first half of the 20th century with guests such as John F. Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, and Clark Gable. In 1991, the building converted to condos with restaurants and bars remaining open to the public.
Other businesses inside the building, now a condo complex, include the Owl Bar and Truffles Catering.
Source: Sondra Goad, owner of Belvedere Restaurant Group.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

The Walters Gets a Java Jolt With New Coffee Bar

For lovers of art and gourmet coffee, a new partnership just might get you buzzing.
Q at The Walters, an authentic Seattle-style espresso bar opened this week at The Walters Art Museum. The 300-square-foot espresso bar and cafe serves coffee, pastries, pre-made wraps, salads and sandwiches.
"We love this space. I have never been in a museum. It's the first time for my concept," say owner and operator Ashley Stark-McCauley.
Stark-McCauley runs three additional coffee bars in the Baltimore area including cafes at Johns Hopkins University and at an office building in Hunt Valley. 

As for expanding, Stark-McCauley says she's scouting other locations in Baltimore and is also considering adding locations in office buildings in New York City.
After completing her undergraduate and graduate studies in Seattle and working as a professor, Stark-McCauley says she wants to bring an authentic Seattle coffee experience to her hometown of Baltimore. She launched her first coffee business almost 20 years ago.
The model is very different than a traditional business model because she operates inside host institutions that require her to work with existing space as opposed to being able to completely remodel a location, Stark-McCauley says. 
Stark-McCauley will add roughly four employees, and has invested $25,000 in launching Q at the Walters.
Q at The Walters will be open during regular museum hours, which are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Just announced by the museum are Thursday evening hours when the museum will stay open until 9.pm.
She hopes to eventually offer early morning hours for residents of Mount Vernon.
Source: Ashley Stark-McCauley, owner of Q at The Walters
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

High-End Apartment Developers Invest in Mount Vernon

Seeking to fill a demand for housing in Baltimore, apartment developers hope to offer luxury apartments to professionals who want to live in Mount Vernon or downtown. 
Working on behalf of a group of private investors, high-end residential developer  Zahlco Properties plans to renovate up to six apartment buildings with 100 total units in Mount Vernon and downtown by next summer, says Yonah Zahler, CEO of Pikesville's Zahlco Properties. 
The company hopes to create a new venture, Urban Living by Zahlco, to cater to young professionals who work and want to live downtown. 
The first building, a 10,000-square-foot double row house at 16 E. Biddle St. in Mount Vernon, is slated to open for lease in October. The funding group behind the venture has invested $1.3 million to renovate the home and has several million set aside to develop additional properties, Zahler says. He wouldn't specify where the other buildings are located and exactly how much he will spend on them. 

Zahler believes there is a demand for high-end housing in Mount Vernon and that the area has always attracted residents.
"Mount Vernon has a unique style of living. It has a Manhattan type of feel that will only grow by the population and workers increasing. Retail will follow," Zahler says.

Maybe it's not New York, but apartment rental rates in Baltimore are keeping up with bigger cities. Baltimore renters paid an average of $1,684 last month, a 12 percent increase compared with July 2011, according to housing market research firm Zillow Inc. 

Zahler's apartments will be one to two bedrooms costing no more than $1,400 and $2,000 a month, respectively.

Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]
Source: Yonah Zahler, CEO of Zahlco Properties.

Mount Vernon Coffee House to Open Across From Starbucks

Coffee connoisseurs looking for in-house roasting in Midtown will soon have a specialty coffee shop for espresso fixes and coffee cravings.
TriBeCa Coffee signed a lease for a 1,300 square-foot space at 1210 N. Charles St. where owner James Jean will spend as much as $250,000 to open the 30-seat coffee lovers paradise. Jean expects to open the Mount Vernon shop by early November.
TriBeCa is one of a number of artisan and specialty coffee shops that have opened recently in Baltimore. This summer, Spike Gjerde's Artifact Coffee opened in Hampden and Lamill Coffee opened at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore.
Located near the University of Baltimore close to the intersection of Charles and East Preston Streets, TriBeCa coffee will feature coffee beans from multiple origins, various brewing methods and store-roasted coffee beans.
Jean was drawn to the location for its ample foot traffic due to its proximity to nearby universities such as the Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Baltimore and Peabody Institute.
But Jean will face serious competition from national coffee chain Starbucks, which has a location across the street. By offering coffee at a lower price point, in-house roasting and a complete remodel of a former beauty salon, Jean hopes to encourage customers to get their coffee from TriBeCa as opposed to Starbucks.
A former registered nurse, Jean decided to change careers after two years of nursing and learned how to roast coffee while working in the roasting division of Vermont Artisan Coffee and Tea Co.
He traveled across the country researching how to run his first specialty coffee shop. He plans to hire five employees to work as baristas. 
Source: James Jean, owner of TriBeCa Coffee
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Live Jazz and Barbeque Comes to Mount Vernon

Phaze 10 opened this month in Mount Vernon and plans to offer American food, specialty drinks and live entertainment such as jazz and open-mic nights. While the business will start in Baltimore, the company eventually plans to expand to additional locations outside the area, Managing Partner Tony Randall says.
The restaurant currently employs 24 and is hiring for additional bartenders, servers and cooks. 
The multi-level, 6,000-square-foot, upscale restaurant and carry-out grill at 855 N. Howard St. offers Southern food with a Caribbean twist including barbeque spare ribs, salmon and crab cakes, Randall says.
Prices range from $15 to $25 for an entree in the restaurant, and entrees from $5 to $15 in the grill carryout location.
Randall wants to create a location for a mature crowd that enjoys the atmosphere and nightlife of D.C. or Philadelphia, but with the unique spirit of Baltimore and closer to home.
"We tried to create a place that we imagined we'd like to go to," Randall says.
The restaurant will focus on bringing live jazz and neo-soul acts in addition to open-mic nights and comedy. It has live entertainment slated Wednesday through Saturday nights.
A Baltimore native and graduate of Morgan State University, Randall has long been involved with the music and entertainment industry in Baltimore. A 30-year IT professional, Randall and his business associates founded a computer-consulting firm, TT Systems Inc. and the partners have invested in the new business together.
Source: Tony Randall, managing partner of Phaze 10
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Kabob Joint Opens in Abacrombie Inn

It's out with the symphony crowd and in with the college kids for Midtown's Abacrombie Inn

Managers of the inn hope a new restaurant taking over the space formerly occupied by Abacrombie Fine Foods and serving Middle Eastern fare will appeal to a growing student population in the area.
Alladin Kabob opened this month in the Abacrombie Inn at 58 W. Biddle St. in Midtown, and managers hope that the new restaurant will be a hit with the student community at nearby University of Baltimore and Maryland Institute College of Art, says Todd Powell, managing director of the Abacrombie Inn.
The 2,400-square-foot restaurant serves Middle Eastern fare and also offer a hookah bar, Powell says.
Alladin Kabob has leased the space and made significant renovations to the former Abacrombie Fine Foods. With its proximity to Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the previous restaurant was a more upscale, fine dining experience often appealing to concert-goers, Powell says.
Powell is optimistic about future of the restaurant along with other businesses that have been redeveloped along nearby Charles Street.
The fate of the restaurant may be in the hands of college students who will soon be neighbors with the inn. 
This fall, the University of Baltimore will open a 323-bed residence hall at Maryland and Biddle Streets just next to the inn.

Source: Todd Powell, managing director of the Abacrombie Inn
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Charm City Yoga Opens Pikesville Location, Will Offer Children's Yoga Classes

Pikesville residents looking to perfect their downward-facingdog and sun salutations have a new place to harness their yogic potential. Earlier this month, Charm City Yoga opened its sixth location in Pikesville.
Their new 1,000-square-foot studio, located in the Commerce Center on Reisterstown Road near Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, will offer classes for beginners and the seasoned yogi.
Charm City Yoga will debut yoga workshops for children at the Pikesville location this week. Another unique offering will be a workshop focused on a traditional Jewish form of self-study called Mussar, which share similarities to with the yogic practice of svadhyaya, says director of operations for Charm City Yoga, Allison Korycki.
After announcing their planned expansion to Pikesville, Korycki says the company was flooded with emails asking for kid’s yoga, so the company obliged. Two workshops for children will be offered on Sundays at the studio.
The company's growth has been unexpected but Korycki says the company is excited to be offering yoga in more diverse communities.
Despite their start as an urban studio, the company's three newest studios have been in more suburban areas.

Charm City Yoga opened its first location in 2000 in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood. Since then, the company has expanded to six locations including Federal Hill, Fells Point, Serverna Park, and Towson.

An ancient Indian discipline, yoga has exploded in popularity in recent years in the United States. Practitioners of yoga say the practice offers a variety of health benefits from building strength to improving mood and self-confidence. 
The ultimate goal of Charm City Yoga is to help people transform their lives, Korycki says.
The company employs over 100 instructors throughout their locations in the Baltimore area. Charm City Yoga is registered through the Yoga Alliance as a yoga school. The yoga teacher training program, which graduates new instructors every eight months has facilitated much of the company's growth, Korycki says.
"We have teachers ready to teach and give back to the community, that's what fosters growth… and we get emails from people all the time to open a studio in their neighborhood," Korycki says.

Source: Allison Korycki, director of operations for Charm City Yoga. 
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Contemporary Museum Designing Move to Charles Street

Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum is moving into a larger space on Charles Street that will give it more room to host exhibits.

The museum will move in January to 505 N. Charles St., the former Craig Flinner Gallery. The spot is one-third larger than its former Centre Street location next to the Walters Art Museum, which is expanding into this space.

The 5,000 square foot space will give it double the exhibit space of its old venue, Contemporary Museum Executive Director Sue Spaid says. It received $10,000 from Downtown Partnership of Baltimore's Operation: Storefront initiative that aims to fill vacant spots in the city.

Spaid says she likes the location because it is close to Mount Vernon attractions the George Peabody Library, the Baltimore Basilica and the park.

The museum has a $350,000 operating budget and eight-person staff, seven of whom work part-time. Its upcoming exhibits include a retrospective of environmental artist Patricia Johanson.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Sue Spaid, Contemporary Museum

Public Affairs Firm Looking for Space in Anne Arundel County

A public affairs firm is hunting for a new office in Annapolis so it can be close to state legislators and better positioned to influence public policy.

The ten-year-old Hatcher Group is looking for space near the Maryland State House or Church Circle, President Ed Hatcher says.

It is currently leasing temporary space at 9 State Circle, headed by Dawn Stoltzfus, former spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. Though Stoltzfus is currently the sole employee in Annapolis, Hatcher says he expects to add additional staff in the coming months.

Based in Bethesda, the 25-person firm opened its second office in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood almost a year ago.

The company works with foundations and nonprofits to effect social change. Having an office in Annapolis will make it easier to work on communications initiatives to oppose the death penalty, support gay marriage, and back economic policies on behalf of low-income families, Hatcher says.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Ed Hatcher, the Hatcher Group

Ethiopian Cuisine, Pulsating Music In Store for Mount Vernon's E-Villa

A restaurant and lounge that serves up Ethiopian beef tips along with a course of international music will open in Mount Vernon the first weekend after Labor Day.

E-Villa is the latest project of Harold Edwards, also the owner of six-year-old Eden's Lounge.

The spot will serve small-plate Ethiopian and Latin Foods, Edwards says. His wife, Helen, is Ethiopian. The two-story, 175-seat venue will feature DJs spinning international music, like at Red Maple.

The building at 917 Cathedral St. hasn't been in use since the 90s when it was known as the Gaslight. Edwards has spent roughly $200,000 to renovate the historic rowhome that features exposed brick, high ceilings, arched doorways, and hardwood floors.

The "E" stands for entertainment, in case you were wondering.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Harold Edwards, E-Villa

Construction to Begin Next Month at Fire-Damaged Mount Vernon Building

The developer of a fire-ravaged Mount Vernon building is in the final stages of getting city permits to begin construction as soon as next month.

The building at 800 N. Charles contained Donna's, Indigma, MyThai, and several offices. Indigma will open temporarily across the street until its original home is ready. And Donna's Co-Owner Alan Hirsch says he plans to reopen the restaurant with a wine bar and tapas menu.

The Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has given developer Dominic Wiker the OK to proceed with the design. Final demolition will begin this week and construction will begin later this summer, he says.

Wiker said in a statement that he expects to have a better idea of the number of tenants in the building by the end of July.

The new structure will feature a few contemporary touches, says Steven Shen, chairman of the architectural review committee of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association. It will include a skylight and an all-glass entrance. It will also house a patio on the fifth floor.

Last year's five-alarm fire gutted the building and took out the roof.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Dominic Wiker; Steven Shen, Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association

Construction Begins on UB's $24M Student Housing in Mount Vernon

The University of Baltimore broke ground this month on an 11-story student apartment building to open by the fall 2012 semester.

The $24 million apartment at Maryland and West Biddle Street has been dubbed the Varsity, the same name that developer Potomac Holdings of Bethesda is using for a student-housing complex at College Park.

Potomac will own and operate the 124,000-square-foot housing unit. Apartments will be available to students at the Maryland Institute College of Art and other area schools.

The 323-bed building will house a green roof jointly designed by Baltimore's Floura Teeter Landscape Architects, Inc. and Colbert Matz Rosenfelt, Inc., a civil engineering, land planning, and surveying firm. Potomac was to include 5,000 square feet of retail space, but has backed away from that, says Principal Donnie Gross. The developer thought the space would be better used for amenities such as a gym and study area.

"The amenities are more important than having a Quiznos," Gross says.

Apartments like the Varsity will get people to live closer to campus at a school historically known as a commuter college, UB spokesman Chris Hart says.

"People are moving back into Midtown. It's becoming easier to live within steps of the school."

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Chris Hart, University of Baltimore; Floura Teeter; Donnie Gross, Potomac Holdings

New Hospitality Venture Checks Into P.W. Feats Mount Vernon Office

The hospitality management company recently launched by Michael Haynie is close to purchasing its first hotel, a Maryland property.

The former managing director of Baltimore's Tremont Suite Hotels, Haynie this month created Parkway Hospitality Management LLC. Haynie is leasing space at event firm P.W. Feats, at 3 East Read St. in Mount Vernon for himself and his three employees.

Haynie didn't want to lease his own office just yet as a startup and thought that by taking space in another office could help him keep costs low.

"You don't want to be overwhelmed with debt," he says. "It hurts the company's ability to be successful."

Parkway will initially focus on getting management contracts at distressed hotel properties and taking a partial or full ownership stake in these deals. A lot of banks have taken over financially troubled hotels, but lack the expertise to manage them. Haynie couldn't reveal the Maryland property his company is currently trying to purchase because the deal is not finalized.

Parkway isn't limiting its focus to hotels, however. The company is looking at prospective restaurants and retail shops to offer its consultation services. This includes providing customer service training and performing staff assessments. The company is eye properties along the East Coast, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Michael Haynie, Parkway Hospitality Management

Donna's Owners Envision Wine Bar, Tapas Menu, When Mount Vernon Restaurant Reopens

The owners of Donna's Coffee Bar hope to reopen their Mount Vernon shop by the end of the year following a five-alarm fire that devastated the historic building at 800 N. Charles St.

And when it does reopen, diners can expect tapas and a wine bar on the menu, co-owner Alan Hirsch says.

He expects reconstruction work on the restaurant to begin in October and be completed in three months. With the inside totally gutted, the owners have to redesign the restaurant and go through the permitting process all over again.

"If you go to that corner, it's pretty depressing," since the Dec. 7 fire, Hirsch says. "Part of the community is gone."

Meanwhile, the business owner says he expects renovations on the building to begin as early as June, based on meetings he has had with the building's developer, Dominic Wiker. The former home of Indigma and MyThai restaurants now has no roof and requires extensive electrical and mechanical work, Hirsch says.

Wiker could not be reached for comment.

Hirsch says he does not yet have an estimate on the cost of the renovations.

Serving wine and high-end beer, along with small plates, will help Donna's keep up with current market trends for European-style restaurants, Hirsch says. The restaurant is known for its extensive coffee menu and Mediterranean fare, including a roasted vegetable salad and hummus and pita.

The motive behind the wine bar was not solely money, as the profit margins are higher in coffee drinks, Hirsch says. Rather, the owners felt they needed to refresh the restaurant concept.

"We needed to update Donna's and do more."

It has other locations at the University of Maryland Medical System, the Village of Cross Keys, Charles Village and Columbia.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Alan Hirsch, Donna's

Interior Design Firm to Cozy Up to Downtown Baltimore's Charles Street

An interior design company is expanding to downtown Baltimore.

RC Interiors LLC will open a 2,400-square-foot store Dec. 2 at 339 N. Charles St.

Called Market Centre Design, the retail shop will sell art and furniture and house a design studio, says Jayne Kelly, the store's director of marketing. The space once held lingerie store Bella Sorpresa.

Kelly says the store managers liked the building's soaring ceilings, big windows, and exposed beams.

"It's a really beautiful space," Kelly says. "It's great for a designer."

The Charm City Circulator, the free city shuttle that launched in January, will make it easier than before for folks to shop downtown.

"It's just a nice location," Kelly says. "It gives us some visibility."

The design firm signed a five-year lease at the location. RC Interiors also has an office at 414 Lyman Ave. in Baltimore's Homeland neighborhood. Commercial and residential clients who work in the city will hopefully find the downtown location convenient, Kelly says.

RC Interiors staff also like that the shop is close to Mount Vernon, an "artsy" area that is near the Maryland Institute College of Art.
The store sells a range of styles, from contemporary to antiques. It also carries many original pieces of art by local artists.

Jeremy Landsman of Baltimore's JBL Real Estate LLC brokered the deal on behalf of 339-341 N Charles LLC, an affiliate of WRH Property Holdings LLC.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Jayne Kelly, RC Interiors
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