The Sagamore Pendry Hotel, a 128-room boutique hotel that is backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, is almost ready for its mid-March debut.
The old Recreation Pier at the foot of Fells Point felt like a deserted stage on a recent night.
Mahogany headboards glistened inside bedrooms, a forgotten jacket draped over one edge. At the heart of the building, nestled inside an open-air garden half-planted with boxwoods and river birch, a giant bronze horse announced by spotlights presided like some pagan god about to summon the place to life.
The Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, a 128-room boutique hotel that is backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, is almost ready for its mid-March debut.
Bookings for the roughly $360-a-night hotel and its second-floor ballroom have begun.
About 120 people have been hired, with another roughly 60 to go, said David Hoffman, the hotel's general manager.
On Wednesday evening, Patrick Sutton, the president of Patrick Sutton Interior Design, who has labored on the hotel for the better part of four years, for Plank and for an earlier development team, led a small troop of people through the dramatically lit building for a preview.
Built in 1914, the brick Beaux Arts building originally stored port cargo. It was used as a community center and television studio for "Homicide: Life on the Street." It closed after the show went off the air in 1999 and different development teams have since tried to make a go of restoration.
Plank's plan for the property — which had been slowly disintegrating across the water from his Under Armour offices — became public in 2014, with a roughly $60 million price tag. Construction started later that year, with a formal groundbreaking in March 2015. (War Horse LLC, the real estate firm led by Plank's brother, Scott, is also involved.)
The work has proceeded at breakneck speed, with more than 350 people a day reporting for work for lead construction contractor Whiting Turner, Sutton said.
The renovation — which will receive historic tax credits — had to comply with preservation rules, address potential flood risks and involved removing asbestos and lead paint.
Officials declined to provide an updated cost for the redevelopment.
Sagamore announced last year that a California firm, Montage Hotels & Resorts, would manage the place under its Pendry brand for luxury boutique hotels.
The hotel will feature a pool for guests at the tip of the pier. Big-windowed rooms ring the perimeter, some with harbor views and others facing the interior courtyard, which Hoffman said members of the public — preferably patrons of the restaurant or bar — would be able to access.
The whiskey bar will be named the Cannon Room for the 18th-century cannons that divers unearthed around the building during the renovation. One will be embedded in the floor.
Sutton, who also has worked on Plank's home in Baltimore County and on projects such as the 1305 Dock Street apartments in Harbor Point, said the mahogany and brass fixtures visible Wednesday through dark-framed windows are designed to evoke a ship, where every passenger gets a berth fit for a captain.
"I think Baltimore is so cool because there's so many different unique spots," said Alexa Gaines, 24, one of the two people behind The BMore Creatives, an Instagram account with some 17,500 followers, and one of the visitors getting a preview of the hotel Wednesday.
Crews lowered the roughly 3,500-pound "Horse with Bridle" sculpture, by Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero, into the courtyard by crane in recent days. The horse is one of two Boteros that Plank has acquired since the monumental, rounded works caught his eye at an Art Basel show some years ago, Sutton said.
Plank hopes the horse will become a favorite site where romantics go to pop the big question, Sutton said. And that's just one of the many ready-to-go dramas that Sutton hopes visitors will discover.
"The hotel has been designed to convey many, many different stories or provide many stories for you to find," Sutton said. "Some of them are subtle. Some of them are a 3,500-pound horse sculpture."