Photo by NCinDC, via Flickr

Harborplace is starting a new era with a new developer, P. David Bramble of MCB Real Estate.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced in his State of the City address Tuesday that Bramble has reached an agreement to bring the two mostly-vacant shopping pavilions out of receivership and make them a vital part of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor waterfront again.

The announcement puts an end to years of hand wringing and speculation about what will happen to the “festival marketplace” that helped kick off the city’s vaunted Renaissance in 1980 but later fell into disuse and disrepair under own-of-town owners and is anything but festive.

“When I was growing up, Harborplace was a destination – a place that Baltimoreans and people from out of town were excited to visit,” Scott said in his address. “But it has been on a steady decline for years now – no longer living up to its reputation or its promise. Since taking office last December, I have been constantly asked about what the future will hold for this once destination-location.

“But today, all of that changes,” he said. “Today, West Baltimore’s very own, David Bramble, announced that he has the rights to bring private investment for a revitalized Harborplace. Today, we start a new chapter for Harborplace – bringing Baltimore vision, Baltimore community investment, and Baltimore style to transform Harborplace into a landmark destination where residents can go to enjoy the best that we have to offer – thriving small businesses, green spaces, and cultural venues.

“Dave has my full support and the support of my entire administration as he navigates the receivership process and works to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into this part of our city.”

The land at Pratt and Light Streets is owned by the City of Baltimore, but the 125,000-square-foot retail center on the land has been operated via a ground lease by a series of developers, starting with the Rouse Company of Columbia, Maryland, and its successors.

After the last private operator, Ashkenazy Acquisitions Corporation, ran into financial difficulties several years ago, control of the buildings was assumed by a court-appointed receiver. The agreement with Bramble still must be approved by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

In his address, Scott also announced that the city is reopening the Inner Harbor Visitor Center just south of Harborplace’s Light Street pavilion. The visitor center has been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bramble’s other projects include The Rotunda commercial center at 711 W. 40th Street; the Yard 56 mixed-use development in Greektown; the Northwood Commons shopping center near Morgan State University; and residential developments in Charles Village, Madison Park and Clipper Mill, where his main offices are.

MCB is also part of a team that controls the former News-American property in the 300 block of E. Pratt Street, a development site just north of the Pratt Street pavilion of Harborplace.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.