THE COUNTDOWN is on to the Dec. 29 public opening of Port Discovery, Baltimore's new children's museum. As by-invitation-only pre-opening events begin Tuesday, no one is watching the project more closely than the real estate community.
It is wondering whether the $32 million complex can make a big splash at a site where other entertainment and retail concepts failed.
Port Discovery's exhibits have to succeed on their own, of course. But the Baltimore Development Corp. strengthened the museum's long-term chances recently by selecting the Cordish Co. to revitalize the Brokerage, an adjoining building that flopped as a retail and nightclub venue.
"Our primary objective, both selfishly and altruistically, is to help the children's museum. Compatibility is the first principle," says David Cordish, president of the company that has successfully done turnaround projects in several cities.
In Baltimore, Mr. Cordish's firm transformed the Inner Harbor's abandoned Power Plant into a smashing entertainment and retail complex.
The mix Mr. Cordish has in mind for the Brokerage by 2000 includes retail, art and live performance. For the centerpiece, "I would like to come up with an attraction that is not run-of-the-mill."
The Brokerage and the Fishmarket, now the home of Port Discovery, failed a decade ago. They were able to draw weekend revelers and shoppers, but had hardly any business during the week. Though they were just blocks north of the Inner Harbor, tourists never found them in sufficient numbers.
The children's museum opens at a crucial time. Further inland, the city is seeking to sell the main buildings of the failed City Life Museums. Meanwhile, the Baltimore City Community College is hoping to build an office and retail tower between Port Discovery and the Power Plant.
Because of the many new attractions and splendid weather, the past two tourist seasons have broken records at the Inner Harbor. The challenge is to spread that success.
Pub Date: 12/06/98