Retailer H&M details plans for Harborplace store

H&M hopes that the Harborplace location it plans to open in March will help boost customer traffic at the waterfront pavilions in downtown Baltimore by bringing an in-demand and fast-growing apparel brand to the city, executives of the Swedish retailer said Thursday.

H&M, a chain of men's, women's and children's apparel that is opening hundreds of new stores this year, plans a 20,000-square-foot, two-level store in the Light Street pavilion that will have its own entrance from the promenade along the harbor, representatives said during a design presentation to the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel. The retailer has performed best at street level locations in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Chicago and expects similar results in Baltimore.

"It's a destination," said Susan Sernett, a real estate manager for the retailer. "It is very much an in-demand brand, and there is still great excitement when we have come in to each of these (new) locations. We can help drive traffic on a year-round basis."

Sernett promised a "unique" store design with a grand entrance to the pavilion.

General Growth, the owner of Harborplace and The Gallery mall across Pratt Street, has been planning sweeping changes for the 30-year-old Harborplace, which helped trigger a wave of redevelopment along the city's waterfront. Earlier this summer, the landlord said it was close to signing three large tenants to fill most of the pavilions' vacancies.

After hearing the H&M presentation, M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., noted that H&M would be located near Urban Outfitters and that tenants such as those would help to keep Harborplace fresh.

"It was a different world in 1980" when Harborplace opened, Brodie said. "I would like to see H&M come. It's a major piece of the turnaround for General Growth and Harborplace and the city."

General Growth representatives had identified one of the three potential tenants only as an international retailer of women's, men's and children's clothing. Its proposed size would make it the biggest nonfood tenant in the center.

The plans presented Thursday showed H&M would move into space that had been occupied by Paolo's/Jean Claude's Bistro on the first level and part of the west side of the pavilion on the second level.

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