Hammerjacks Could Anchor a New Entertainment District Near Camden Yards

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Hammerjacks night-shot

The latest iteration of Hammerjacks nightclub likely will be the cornerstone for a new entertainment district near M&T Bank Stadium and the Horseshoe Casino, a city planner said yesterday.

Architects presented the latest plans for the $10 million project at Russell and Ostend streets during a meeting of Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel.

At the start of the meeting, city planner Brent Flickinger told the review panel members that city officials are encouraging a new sort of live entertainment zone to take shape south of Camden Yards and near the Horseshoe Casino.

The Camden-Carroll industrial park has mostly been known for its collection of warehouses and gas stations along Russell Street, but the city’s revised zoning code encourages commercial activity as well, Flickinger said.

“Between Russell Street and Ridgely, we want the flexibility for something other than gas stations and warehouses,” he said. “Between Ridgely and Russell, we have the opportunity for something more than what is there now.”

Hammerjacks is consistent with the city’s vision, said Kevin Butler, president and chief executive officer of Hammerjacks Entertainment Group, the project developer.

Hammerjacks day_shot

“We believe this will be the cornerstone, the kickoff to a new entertainment zone” in the city, he said about Hammerjacks. “We believe this is going to return a world-class venue to Baltimore.”

Other cities have developed plans for full blown entertainment districts next to urban ballparks, including St. Louis, Philadelphia and Arlington, Texas. Many of these are master planned by one developer, including the Cordish Company of Baltimore.

Baltimore never saw a well-defined entertainment district grow around its two downtown stadiums, in part because the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill already were within walking distance.

State-owned land is potentially available between Baltimore’s two stadiums, but it has never been developed. Now, seeing what is happening in other cities, private developers are starting to acquire properties on the periphery of Camden Yards, with the idea of adding entertainment uses that might appeal to the crowds it already draws.

Flickinger did not identify any other entertainment projects in the works besides Hammerjacks. One of the parking lots used for Ravens games, Lot N, is owned by developer Mark Sapperstein. Butler said he is looking for other properties to buy nearby.

The new Hammerjacks is a logical early project for a fledgling Camden-Carroll entertainment zone because a nightclub with that name has been in the area before.

An earlier version of Hammerjacks, on South Howard Street, was torn down to make way for the 85-acre, two-stadium Camden Yards sports complex. Planners such as stadium design expert Janet Marie Smith have said that it might have been better, in retrospect, if more of the existing buildings in the Camden Yards footprint had been preserved and repurposed.

The new Hammerjacks is being planned for property where the Paradox nightclub used to be. It will be the fourth incarnation of Hammerjacks.

Plans presented yesterday by architect Matt Herbert of Design Collective showed that the new Hammerjacks will be a combination of new construction and renovation, and the entire complex will have an industrial feel.

An existing two-story building at 1300 Russell Street will be renovated to contain space at street level for a restaurant, craft brewery or sportswear retailer, with offices for Hammerjacks above.

Herbert said two other buildings where Paradox was, at 1310 and 1320 Russell Street, will be torn down to make way for a concert venue capable of accommodating up to 2,500 people. The concert venue will be available for conventions and other large gatherings.

The Hammerjacks complex also will include a beer garden, a smaller performance space and a separate indoor bar with room for about 300 people. The developers said they have secured agreements to use Camden Yards parking lots N and NN on days when the Ravens don’t play.

To mark Hammerjacks on the skyline, the designers proposed a stair tower with the Hammerjacks name and logo, rising high above Russell Street.

Butler said he is aiming to open by the fourth quarter of 2017. He said he will apply to the city this month for a demolition permit for the Paradox buildings and will go to the city’s liquor board in January or February to request a new arena liquor license.

The review panel members said the project has enormous potential to transform the area and anchor a new entertainment zone. Panelists Rich Burns and David Haresign encouraged the developer to think about issues such as valet parking, Uber drop offs, people standing in line to get in, and providing enough bathrooms.

Burns encouraged the developers to do something creative with a billboard pylon that they want to relocate within the property, possibly by placing it in the middle of the beer garden.  “Make something special with the billboard” pole, he said.  “It should be an event and something iconic for the beer garden.”

Haresign encouraged the designers not to be timid.

“Expand your sights,” he said. “Think big.  Think long-term. Don’t be bashful.”

Ed Gunts

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