Phillips Seafood will open a 500-seat restaurant by early October at the Inner Harbor's Power Plant, in space left vacant last summer by ESPN Zone, Phillips and landlord the Cordish Cos. announced Thursday.
Phillips, an original Harborplace tenant, announced last month that it would close its restaurant in the Light Street Pavilion by Sept. 30 after 31 years in that location.
The new restaurant will occupy the 15,000-square-foot first floor of the former ESPN Zone space, but not the second floor, which has not yet been leased. Phillips will include indoor and outdoor seating for more than 300 people, a raw bar, two full bars and a 200-seat deck on a barge in front of the restaurant, which will feature steamed hard-shell crabs.
The restaurant's new location represents a marriage of two fourth-generation, family-run local businesses, representatives of Cordish and Phillips said during a news conference Thursday morning on the barge.
"This is not an ordinary, simple lease — we do hundreds of those," said David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., which redeveloped the Power Plant in the mid-1990s.
Cordish said that his company had been approached by dozens of would-be tenants for the old ESPN Zone space but that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had advised him to take his time finding the right tenant and to "do something special when you replace the Zone."
Signing a lease with Phillips was an "easy decision," Cordish said.
Steve Phillips, president and chief executive of Phillips Seafood restaurants, said Phillips is a natural fit for the Power Plant space. "I travel around the world to a lot of cities with my business and I've never been to a city more beautiful than Baltimore City," Phillips said.
"My family has been very, very blessed" to have been a part of the growth of downtown Baltimore, he continued.
The new Phillips will feature a more polished design than the Harborplace restaurant, with Turkish-style ottomans in an entrance lounge and decor including antique mirrors and stained glass, said Joanna Phillips, marketing manager for the Baltimore-based seafood company and restaurant chain.
The barge will offer a more casual dining experience, "a crab deck in the old-fashioned Baltimore way," Cordish said during the news conference.
Phillips and its architecture firm, Design Collective, propose placing a sign atop one wing of the historic Power Plant building, with "Phillips" spelled out in red letters as tall as 15 feet and "Seafood" in white letters beneath.
Another proposed Phillips sign, with red lettering up to 7 feet high, would be placed above a canopy at the restaurant's entrance, according to preliminary designs shown for the first time Thursday at a meeting of the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel. Phillips banners would also hang from the front of the building.
On the East Pratt Street side of the building, where a valet parking drop-off point is planned, the restaurant wants to carve several windows into the brick to allow more light into the dining area.
The design panel approved the schematic plans, but it asked the architects to consider panel members' concerns over the proposed new windows and signs.
Of the addition of windows, panel member Emily Eig said, "The building is very powerful, and it is just going to look cheap."
Another panel member questioned whether the proposed signs would be too big.
"The signage gives the impression that [Phillips] occupies the entire wing," Mark Cameron said. "The signage is nice, but my concern is as additional tenants move in and additional signs are placed, it starts to get very busy."
Richard A. Marietta, the architect who presented the plans, said Phillips at one point had considered a dancing crab sign but decided to go with something more sophisticated.
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