Top 5: ‘It looks a little older… but then again, so do we’

Baltimore’s famed Hollywood Diner will be staying in business after all — despite rumors it might be closing — and a state delegate from Garrett County is going to receive more than $400,000 from Maryland to preserve his farm.

1. Hollywood Diner gets a reprieve – by Jon Sham

When Alan and Bonnie Kingman read about plans to close the Hollywood Diner, they arranged to take a long lunch Wednesday and trek down from Lutherville to pay what they thought would be a last visit.

The couple, both being interested in the 1950s era, got married on Halloween in 1992 and held their wedding reception at the diner, best known for being the hangout of characters in Barry Levinson’s 1982 movie “Diner.”

2. EEOC loses race, gender bias lawsuit – by Ben Mook

A Laurel-based maintenance supply company emerged victorious last week after a lengthy court battle with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Central Wholesalers Inc. had been fighting charges of racial and sexual discrimination since the EEOC first filed its lawsuit on June 29, 2006. The federal agency filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt after investigating allegations from a former Central Wholesalers sales representative. La Tonya Medley, a black woman, claimed to have endured racial and gender-based epithets daily while working at Central Wholesalers.

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Work in progress for Baltimore’s newest park

The work at what soon will be Baltimore’s newest park is in full swing near Pier 5.

Look for Pierce’s Park to open this fall. The development, located on a sliver of land behind the Columbus Center, is going to be an oasis for fun and creative play.

Park benches will be made of recycled material, a unique tunnel is in place made of a living willow vine, a musical fence designed by local artist David Hess is being installed and plenty of shade trees will make this small space sparkle for young and old.

The park is named for Pierce J. Flanigan III, president of the P. Flanigan and Sons road construction firm, who lived near the site of the park before his death in October 2008 from a brain hemorrhage. It is being funded through public funds and private donations.

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What do Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle and New York have in common besides similar pro-sports franchises?

Jones Lang LaSalle published a market indicator last week that showed Charm City in top company when it comes to high-tech jobs and growth.

This means a higher demand locally for office space leasing, and landlords here and nearby willing to adjust commercial space to lure firms to the open, loft appeal of the likes of Facebook, Google and Zynga, Jones Lang LaSalle, a national real estate firm, says.

“High-tech innovations and a shift in workforce dynamics are changing the way companies view and use office space,” Peter Miscovich, Managing Director in Jones Lang LaSalle’s Corporate Solutions group, said in a statement.

Other areas also in the spotlight are the Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh and Austin, Texas.

Baltimore’s fortunes are linked to BRAC and the move to add to the growing cybersecurity industry in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. High tech, healthcare and energy-related jobs are listed as the top three sectors to watch for growth in the near future.

Here’s what the report had to say about Baltimore: “Surprisingly strong high-tech cluster that emerged as a result of the federal government relocating the Defense Information Systems Agency’s [DISA] headquarters from Northern Virginia to Fort Meade. High-tech tenants serving DISA are relocating to submarkets in the Baltimore region and their demand is outpacing available supply, leading to premiums almost 30 percent above the market average. While all federal government programs will be intensely scrutinized in the coming months and years, cuts to DISA appear unlikely as increased intelligence funding has been a priority over the past several years.”

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Baltimore Reads, an adult literacy center based downtown, has received a $100,000 donation from Wells Fargo – enough to rename the group’s headquarters The Wells Fargo Literacy Center @ Baltimore Reads.

The group offers adult literacy classes, GED prep, civics and English language acquisition. It also has a book bank that provides free children’s books to schools, teachers, Head Start centers, social services agencies, community organizations and families unable to afford books for a home library.

More than 1.5 million books have flowed through the free service since Baltimore Reads was founded in 1988.

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Friends in Pigtown report that a new development there, Charm City Swing, has many in the historic neighborhood on the city’s southwest side tapping their toes.

Last week, the Swing opened its doors in a renovated church at 861 Washington Blvd. — named, eloquently, the Mobtown Ballroom. Community advocates say that more than 75 dancers turned out for the fun, which included lessons in the Lindy Hop and other swing favs.

Each Friday from 9 to 11:30 p.m., you can go and dance till your socks melt at The Baltimore Strut. If you want to jumpstart your week, each Monday, there is a DJ dance.

“At approximately 8 p.m., we noticed  quite a few very well dressed people (men in suits, ladies in dresses with lovely flowers in their hair) walking down the streets…….from all directions,” said Beth Hawks, a proud Pigtown homeowner. “We went over to check it out and were pleasantly surprised to see the vast array of ages, 20 up to 75-plus, but most importantly, the smiles and laughter filling the room.”

As Pigtown has had its share of urban struggles, the community located near M&T Stadium just off of Martin Luther King Boulevard is giddy to be experiencing a renaissance, perhaps with roots in twinkle toes and a nod and a dip here and there.

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TIDBITS: Broad Street Realty announced this week that BSV Crestview Square LLC has acquired 68,000-square-foot Crestview Square Shopping Center at 6747 Annapolis Road in Landover Hills, Prince George’s County. Crestview is an investment partnership controlled by the principals of Broad Street Realty… Manekin LLC this week announced recent hires. Susan A. Homberg, vice president of real estate services for JPB Enterprises, was named a vice president, and Brendon Behan, an assistant vice president at McShea & Co., was named assistant vice president in Manekin’s brokerage division… Want a tour of the soon-to-be-finished John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore? The local real estate group, CREW, is hosting a tour and happy hour in Mt. Vernon on Oct. 13 beginning at 4 p.m. at the Whiting Turner construction trailer, located on the south side of Mt. Royal Avenue. Reservations are required and the cost is $30 for CREW members and $40 for non-members. Go to www.crewbaltimore.org   for details.

Would you buy a Kindle Fire?

Amazon would like to know, preferably by the time you make your holiday wish list.

The company is expected to unveil its much-anticipated tablet Wednesday morning. What this will mean for the burgeoning “tablet wars” is a question of much discussion. To be sure, it will at least start out as an uphill climb for Amazon, seeing as Apple’s iPad takes up approximately 75 percent of the marketplace.

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler appears to be the only person who got a preview of the Fire. Siegler wrote earlier this month that it has a 7-inch screen with a full-color display and runs Android. Reports say it will go on sale for $250.

There are conflicting reports as to whether a free subscription to Amazon Prime will be included with the purchase of the Fire. Prime, which normally costs $79 annually, is a preferred shoppers’ card of sorts for Amazon customers, giving them free, unlimited two-day shipping, for example. Analysts and observers are expecting a whole lot of cross-pollination between Amazon.com, the Kindle and the Fire.

Expect the tech blogs to light up (pardon the pun) Wednesday morning once the Fire debuts.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Apple invited media members Tuesday to a “special event” related to the iPhone on Oct. 4, where many people believe the company will unveil the iPhone 5.

Top 5: ‘It’s important that we don’t drop the ball’

The Port of Baltimore was named the No. 1 automobile shipping hub, and the organizer of the Baltimore Grand Prix, Baltimore Racing Development LLC, is trying to raise a lot more money. Those stories and more in this week’s business top 5.

1. Md. Energy Administration opposing BGE acquisition – by Ben Mook and Nicholas Sohr

The Maryland Energy Administration and the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley are opposing Constellation Energy Group’s $7.9 billion acquisition by Exelon Corp. unless changes are made in the deal.

MEA Director Malcolm Woolf said in sworn testimony filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission on Friday that the deal would harm customers of Constellation, the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. Woolf said the deal posed “significant risk of harm to BGE customers.” He said BGE would lose its independence after 195 years and would become a small cog in a much larger company.

2. Hopkins president lays out plans for East Baltimore Community School – by Melody Simmons

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels launched a public campaign Tuesday outlining Hopkins’ plans for the new East Baltimore Community School, a public contract school in Middle East.

During an hour-long presentation at the Hopkins Carey Business School, Daniels unveiled the university’s philosophy and intent to use the public school to help attract new housing and turn around the blighted urban community, now part of a $1.8 billion redevelopment by the nonprofit East Baltimore Development Inc.

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More rooms near Stevenson, McDonogh

The ribbon was cut for a $11.3 million Hampton Inn in Owings Mills this week by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and representatives of Mangione Family Enterprises, owners of the new digs.

The 105-room hotel located on Red Run Boulevard is aimed to serve nearby Stevenson University and McDonogh School events and was lauded by Kamenetz as an economic boost to the Owings Mills community.

The expansion of Stevenson University’s Owings Mills campus to the site where the Baltimore Ravens — and Baltimore Colts — used to call home has provided a new wave of traffic to the area to participate in Stevenson’s budding athletic program.

County subsidies in the form of a $10 million Recovery Zone Facility Bond helped to finance the hotel, allowing Mangione to borrow construction costs below market rates.

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This week, Cushman & Wakefield made known that the company had been selected as the listing agent for the office, flex, and industrial portfolio Bernstein Management Corp. in the state. This constitutes about 1 million square feet and 11 buildings.

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Hollywood Diner may close Friday – but maybe not

The famed Hollywood Diner — donated to the city of Baltimore after its use on the set of Barry Levinson’s 1982 movie “Diner“ — may, again, be closing its doors to customers as soon as Friday.

But owner Cheryl Townsend, who is also the proprietor of the Red Springs Cafe and catering company (formerly on Calvert Street), said she’s not entirely sure they will be closing despite reports to the contrary.

“I haven’t made my final, final, final, final decision,” she said, sitting in a booth Thursday afternoon in the nearly-empty diner.

The catering side of her business will go on regardless of whether the diner stays a diner, she said.

When the Hollywood Diner reopened in March under Townsend, it was featured in “Sweat Equity,” a Daily Record series about small business start-ups. And, from the beginning, things seemed to be going great for the cafe, located on the corner of East Saratoga and Holiday streets.

The restaurant met sales projections every day in the first few weeks but business started to slow as summer set in. Townsend attributes it to her inability to properly market the diner to downtown lunchers and partly to Baltimore’s growing food truck business.

In one case, a truck parked on the street right next to the diner. The food trucks charge a little less, she said, but she never wanted to sacrifice quality by resorting to buying cheaper food.

Townsend said she expects to know whether or not she will keep the diner open in the coming days.

Watch the video about the Hollywood Diner from March, part of “Sweat Equity,” The Daily Record’s series about small business start-ups.

The Falls in Mt. Washington closes

Fellow residents of Mt. Washington (and those who frequent the area) will be saddened to learn that our beloved restaurant, The Falls in Mt. Washington, has announced it is closing, effective immediately.

The cafe/restaurant, located on Kelly Avenue near the Mt. Washington Tavern, made the announcement via its Facebook page Tuesday morning, with the reason for its closure unclear:

The Falls was never perfect, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. We always wanted the Falls to be a great place to have some good food, good drinks, and have good conversation- not only with each other, but with us as well. Anyone who came to the Falls more than once knows that there was always something different from visit to visit, and that was because we were always committed to improving, growing, and evolving.

When I moved to Baltimore a little more than a year ago, The Falls was one of the first places I found nearby to get a great breakfast. It was my go-to place when I had visitors. (I always recommended the Crab Eggs Benedict.)

I showed my guests the funky art they had on the walls, the life-sized busts of Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon and the books they kept on the shelves in between the tables. It was unique.

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Wendy’s beefs up its burgers

So many questions come to mind after reading about Wendy’s rolling out a new hamburger after 42 years. Such as:

- A pickle chemist? Where do I sign up?

- No mustard on a hamburger? Wendy’s says it’s to “emphasize the flavor of the beef.” I say a dollop of mustard never hurt anything.

- There was seriously consideration of using green-leaf lettuce? I’m glad the company came to its sense on that one.

- Why do crinkle-cut foods (like the pickles on the new hamburger) usually taste better than regular-cut foods?

- “Wendy’s director of hamburgers”? Where do I sign up?

-  How nauseatingly-tempting does a “cross-country burger-eating tour” sound?

- Will consumers spend $3.49 on a quarter-pound burger they could get cheaper at one of Wendy’s rivals?

- Anyone else have a hankering all of the sudden for a Frosty?

(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Velocity to bump HD Theater

Discovery Network’s HD Theater, the first all-HD channel, is about to be shown the door after a nine-year run.

Silver Spring-based Discovery said Monday that HD Theater will be replaced later this year with Velocity, also a high def channel, but one that is positioned as an “upscale male lifestyle network.” Programming initially is going to be heavy on motorcycles, high-stakes gambling and classic cars — the channel’s logo itself would look right at home on the hood of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air. The channel will also feature “insider guides to the good life.”

“In the same way that a car once defined the person who drove it, Velocity will define the viewer who watches it,” said Robert S. Scanlon, senior vice president of Velocity, in the press release announcing the channel. “Whether you are a car aficionado or just someone who prefers fast-paced, high-stakes television, Velocity will become a must-have entertainment destination.”

Discovery is making the change in a bid to woo advertisers looking to woo customers who are looking for the good life their products and services claim to offer — like maybe these guys featured on the channel’s Facebook page.

The front of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air. Photo by Associated Press.

“As the first network devoted to the upscale men’s market, Velocity will be a hub for viewers within this key demographic, as well as the wealth of advertisers that target them,” said David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, in a statement.

The old HD Theater was founded in 2002 and is a staple of cable TV system lineups. The channel got its start simulcasting all of the Discovery stations’ programming from the Discovery Channel to Animal Planet. A look at this week’s schedule shows like “Mantracker,” “American Chopper,” “What’s My Car Worth? and “Chasing Classic Cars” on the lineup.

Top 5: ‘It’s bad news for Maryland’

Following Tuesday’s primary, Baltimore is on its way to sending Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to a second term as mayor, and the announcement of Bank of America’s 30,000 layoffs will surely be felt in Maryland. Those stories and more in this week’s business top 5.

1. Rawlings-Blake says she will be aggressive in Baltimore’s economic development – by Melody Simmons

Hours after her victory in the city’s Democratic primary, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a news conference she plans to take aggressive strides in local economic development, including a restructuring of the Baltimore Development Corp.

Rawlings-Blake, 41, defeated five challengers to win the nomination Tuesday with 52 percent of the vote.

“The election is over and for me, the mandate is to move the city forward,” Rawlings-Blake said.

2. Bank of America layoffs to hurt Maryland – by Ben Mook

Bank of America’s plan to shrink its workforce by 10 percent over the next few years will almost certainly have significant effect on Maryland, given the bank’s presence and stature in the state, analysts said.

Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender by assets, will eliminate 30,000 jobs in the next few years as part of Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan’s plan to bolster profit and the company’s stock price. Bank of America is the largest bank in Maryland with roughly 3,900 workers and 20 percent of the market share in the state. The company did not provide details on Monday about where the job cuts would come from or when they would happen.

3. Casino changes upset minority groups – by Nicholas Sohr

A collection of minority groups is protesting changes the state made to requirements for casino developers eyeing the gaming license up for grabs in Baltimore.

Last month, the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission stripped explicit minority business enterprise benchmarks from the request for casino proposals. Instead, the state will work with developers to set goals on a project-by-project basis.

4. Howard executive Ken Ulman running $72M project to connect Maryland – by Nicholas Sohr

While the economic malaise lingers, another recession threatens and trillions in federal budget cuts loom, Ken Ulman finds hope in a warehouse in Elkridge.

There sit spools of fiber-optic cable destined to link public institutions and build the backbone of a network that will bring high-speed Internet service to office buildings and business parks throughout central Maryland.

5. Maryland loses 2,500 jobs in August – by Nicholas Sohr

Maryland lost 2,500 jobs in August and the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent, according to figures released Friday morning by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The job losses were widespread across private employers, but labor officials blamed much of the decline on the information sector, which lost 4,400 jobs. The now-resolved strike by Verizon workers “disproportionally contributed to job losses in that sector.”