A new hotel would benefit area restaurants and attract business and leisure travelers, Noonan said.

"They get the best of both worlds," he said. "I'm not surprised we're starting to hear stirrings about maybe building a hotel or two more. The economy is recovering, and with the [plans for] new residences and offices, it's probably a safe location to build another hotel."

Noonan said he hoped the hotel brand would be a new name for the city — he cited Westin, Loews Hotels, W Hotels & Resorts and Fairmont. That would help increase Baltimore's appeal for tourists and convention-goers, he said.

"That upper-middle [price range] is a reflection of the Harbor East neighborhood and that fits in there," Noonan said.

Demand for hotels, like demand for retail, office space and housing, has been shifting to the east side of the harbor, where hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott have been successful, said Rod Petrik, a managing director and lodging analyst at Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore.

Urban locations have been a "growth engine" for many of the hotels that offer limited dining or meeting space and do well in areas near restaurants.

"The fact that you have another hotel going in there makes sense to me," Petrik said. "When you look at the activity down in Harbor East, particularly in the evenings with the restaurants, there's much more of a nightlife there, which I think would be appealing to visitors."

A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the mayor was counting on continued investment in Harbor East, Harbor Point and surrounding neighborhoods as a key economic driver in reaching her goal of bringing in 10,000 families into the city over the next decade and creating jobs.

"There's no question that the existing development has spurred additional interest and investment in surrounding areas," spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said.

Chesapeake Real Estate Group would develop the 15,000-square-foot retail portion of the planned hotel and retail project and would jointly own the project with Englewood, which would develop the hotel, said Tucker. Plans for the project were first reported Tuesday by bmoremedia.com.

On Wednesday, residents from across the city, including many from nearby neighborhoods, strolled through Harbor East's dense retail center and along its waterfront.

Abi Jakubowski, a 34-year-old Canton resident who was shopping at Whole Foods, said Harbor East has become her go-to destination whenever family or friends are in town.

"If we want to go out for a nice dinner, we say, 'OK, where can we go in Harbor East?'" Jakubowski said. "I think it's just aesthetically pleasing, and it's not too high-maintenance. It's accessible."

New national retailers have recently joined Harbor East's mix of national, regional and local brands. Last month, J. Crew opened a store at the base of the Legg Mason Tower on International Drive and Anthropologie opened at the base of the Four Seasons hotel, also on International Drive. MAC Cosmetics recently moved in, and Lululemon Athletica plans to open soon.

Baltimore can still use more retail options, said Kirsty Gundry and Sophie Landry, two rising seniors at the Maryland Institute College of Art who live in Bolton Hill and said they were all for more development in Harbor East.

On Wednesday, they were in Harbor East for some end-of-summer shopping.

"This place is nice to walk around, but it's small," Gundry said.

Said Landry: "It's getting better, but it needs to spread past just this area."

Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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