Power Plant Live

An artist rendering of the renovated Power Plant Live, which is set to debut this summer. (Handout photo, Baltimore Sun / May 11, 2011)

Pizza restaurant Joe Squared and Leinenkugel's Beer Hall will become the latest additions to Power Plant Live's $10 million upgrade, officials announced Wednesday.

The downtown entertainment hub, which is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar upgrade, has also added a permanent outdoor stage, a new valet entrance and some previously announced new tenants, including The Comedy Factory, Tatu Asian Grill and PBR Baltimore, a country-western bar and club.

Cordish Cos. which owns Power Plant Live, is also close to signing a deal with a restaurant to take over the space Babalu Grill vacated a year ago, said company Vice President Reed Cordish, who declined to give the name of the restaurant. Cordish sees the renovation and expansion as necessary upkeep of a valued property.

"We wanted to reinvent at a time of strength, not when it was faltering," he said.

This will be the second location for Joe Squared, which has operated in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District since November 2005. Joe Squared will replace the pizzeria Two Boots, which is nearing the end of its lease, Cordish said.

The beer hall will be erected in a brand new glass-and-steel pavilion spanning 3,500 square feet, to be located across from the Port Discovery Museum. It will serve some 40 specialty brews, and is expected to be finished by July, Cordish said. Joe Squared does not have an opening date yet.

The centerpiece of the expansion project is the stage, which will allow the company to host concerts year-round. Located in the atrium between Luckie's and Maryland Art Place, it is covered by a 50-foot-high glass canopy and features a jumbo-sized LED screen. It was designed by Chicago firm Knauer Inc. and Baltimore's Design Collective.

Starting May 19, the stage will host free weekly concerts, including its annual Friday night concert series and a monthly party by the band Mr. Greengenes, the company said in a news release. Power Plant Live tenant Rams Head Live, which will book the bands, has also scheduled Better than Ezra, the Reagan Years and Steel Train to perform over the summer.

In addition to the new tenants, longtime bar Luckie's Tavern has expanded with two outdoor bars and a new outpost called Luckie's Liquors, which is designed to look like a liquor store and sells about 75 bottled beers, Cordish said.

The complex now draws an average of 3 million visitors a year, according to Cordish, and though he declined to give benchmarks, the company expects an increase in attendance as a result of the upgrade. By adding more restaurants and bars, the company doesn't want to just increase overall attendance, but also extend how long visitors stay at the complex, Cordish said.

"We want to create an environment that is appealing from 9 to 5," he said.

Renovations at Power Plant have been on going for months and won't be completed until this summer. A job fair to fill about 100 positions at the new businesses will be held June 15.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the project will enhance the city's nightlife options for residents and tourists.

"Without private investment, we wouldn't be able to continue to move forward as a city," she said.

erik.maza@baltsun.com

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