Six Baltimore-area retailers will rotate through a pop-up shop at the Inner Harbor this summer, an initiative that sponsor M&T Bank hopes will help energize a long vacant site in the heart of downtown.
The Spotlight Shop, a modular kiosk-style store, will open Thursday with its first retailer, The Dollhouse Boutique, in the 300 block of E. Pratt St.
The clothing shop is owned by Natalie Karyl, a fashion designer and celebrity stylist who runs a store in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.
Other local businesses that will rotate through the pop-up shop in two-week segments include Mouth Party Caramels, selling packaged candy; Zeke’s Coffee; Cake by Jason, featuring cake and cupcakes; Becket Hitch, a clothing and home decor retailer in Green Spring Station in Timonium; and The Charmery ice cream shop, which has locations in Hampden and Medfield in the city and Towson.
Sponsoring a pop-up shop is a first for M&T Bank, which opened a new 27-story regional headquarters on a formerly vacant lot at One Light Street downtown in September.
The bank wanted to show its commitment to both small-business customers and downtown Baltimore by staking out a presence on a busy street during the summer tourism season, said Augie Chiasera, M&T’s greater Baltimore region president.
“We’re going to be profiling six retailers, so they will benefit by getting their brand out into the community in a very heavily trafficked area for tourists and downtown businesses,” Chiasera said. “So they’ll get a fair amount of traffic.”
The bank’s initiative comes at a time when the Inner Harbor has drawn attention for incidents of rowdy behavior involving large groups of teenagers gathered at the waterfront. Over Memorial Day weekend, police said they arrested six youths for destruction of property and disorderly conduct.
Chiasera said it should be the job of “engaged corporate citizens … to promote all those positive aspects of Baltimore.”
“We feel very positive about the location of the Spotlight Shop,” he said. “It’s one of the busiest areas of the city.”
The shop will set up across the street from Harborplace and in front of one of downtown’s most prominent vacant lots. Currently a parking lot, the site was once occupied by the News American newspaper building, which was razed in 1990. The block has been proposed for redevelopment over the decades, but no project, including plans at one time for a city convention center hotel, became reality.
InterPark Holdings, a Chicago-based parking garage operator and developer, bought the nearly 1-acre site for $16.4 million in 2013 from UrbanAmerica Advisors LLC. InterPark had planned a mixed-use hotel, apartment, retail and parking project.
Before that, UrbanAmerica had planned to build a $250 million, 50-story condominium and hotel skyscraper, but the project was derailed by the recession. A previous owner also floated proposals that never materialized for offices, a hotel, apartments and condominiums.
M&T Bank’s 24-foot-by-20-foot temporary shop space will be constructed on the sidewalk in front of the parking lot, starting Monday. It has folding walls and seating for customers. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore will be enhancing the block with additional landscaping.
Hours will vary, depending on schedules set by shop owners and timing to coincide with downtown events. The shop will operate until sometime in September.