NO ROOM at the inn?
For years, that was the lament at the Admiral Fell Inn, which sometimes was forced to turn away prospective patrons because it had only 39 guest rooms.
It's not such a problem anymore, now that the owners have completed a $6.5 million expansion that raised the number of guest rooms to 80.
Under construction since 1993, the addition also contains spaces that make the historic inn at 888 S. Broadway much more of a mixed-use complex, including a rooftop ballroom and conference center.
Along with the street-level shops and restaurants that were already open, owners say, the expansion finally should provide enough of a critical mass to make the inn a viable operation.
"The good news is we have created a facility that makes some economic sense," said architect Lee Rayburn. "Without the fifth floor, it didn't. This put it over the top."
Open since 1985, the inn was formed by joining three historic buildings at the northwest corner of Broadway and Thames Street, including the former Vinegar Works overlooking Broadway Plaza. The expansion incorporated five additional historic buildings and one new building on the Shakespeare Street side, as well as adding two floors to the original hotel.
The final phase to open was the new fifth level, which is available for catered events, weddings and corporate meetings. Featuring cuisine from Savannah, the inn's gourmet restaurant, it has 360-degree views of the city skyline, including the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
Dominik and Gabriel Eckenstein are the inn's managing partners. Businessman Jim Widman had the original idea for the inn and remains a partner. Robert Eney was the interior designer. Hencken & Gaines was the construction manager.
Rayburn said he tried to make the glass and metal rooftop addition an "overtly modern" expression, so it couldn't be confused with the original historic building. At the same time, he said, he designed the addition to be in scale and harmony with the historic buildings on which it sits and with the streetscape.
Inside, the banquet space has a traditional look, in keeping with the character of the guest rooms below. A small warming kitchen enables Savannah's staff to keep food hot even when it is prepared in the restaurant's main kitchen four floors below.
One of the first events to be held in the rooftop ballroom will be a New Year's Eve party, at which patrons can watch the midnight fireworks. The city's Office of Promotion plans to transform the Inner Harbor into a "birthday cake," complete with giant candles atop downtown buildings, to celebrate the start of Baltimore's bicentennial.
Weinberg interests hire expert on Howard Street
Revitalization efforts for the Howard Street corridor in Baltimore received a boost this fall when the Weinberg interests, a major property owner in the area, hired David Stein, a former employee of the Downtown Partnership, to help investigate the feasibility of redeveloping and leasing Weinberg-controlled properties on Howard Street and elsewhere.
Several business entities related to the late developer Harry Weinberg, including the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, control such key properties as the former Stewart's department store at Howard and Lexington streets, the former Brager- Gutman store on Lexington Mall, the east side of the 500 block of Howard St. and the former Bank of Baltimore operations center on Park Avenue.
Stein was director of project development for the Downtown Partnership, the nonprofit organization that works to promote and revitalize downtown Baltimore. One of his primary responsibilities was coordinating efforts to transform Howard Street into the city's Avenue of the Arts.
Stein left the Downtown Partnership last month to begin his new job. The Weinberg organization's decision to hire him is a sign of renewed interest in taking steps to change the character of the area so it will attract businesses and residents. As part of its investment in the area, Weinberg has been interviewing architects with the goal of hiring one that could develop a master plan to guide growth along the corridor and show potential investors how the area will evolve.
The Downtown Partnership has hired Tamra Edwards, former director of operations for Towson Town Center, to replace Stein. She began her new job this month.
Pub Date: 12/19/96