Downtown Baltimore saw a large number of restaurant openings in the past year, changing the variety of eateries available to tourists and area employees.
Thirty-nine restaurants opened in a one-mile radius, while 18 closed, according to figures released Monday by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. The statistics come from the group’s annual State of Downtown report, which it plans to unveil in full in April.
The Downtown Partnership numbers, compiled by the agency from brokers and real estate information company CoStar, as well as through news and word of mouth, examined office, retail and restaurant leases in a one-mile area that includes Harbor East, some of Federal Hill, the central business district, the West Side, part of Mount Vernon and areas near M&T Bank Stadium.
“There’s great variety among the restaurants, which is the most interesting story,” said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership.
All different types of restaurants opened, from chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway, to deli and café Milk and Honey Market on South Cathedral Street, to Midnite Confection’s Cupcakery on South Charles Street. Charles Street had the most restaurant openings — seven — last year, according to the report.
Most of the restaurants that opened were independent or part of small franchises, while a few — like Dunkin’ Donuts, Youcha Bubble Tea Café, Konstant’s and Subway — can hardly be considered fine sit-down establishments.
Bryan Palombo, co-owner of Alewife on North Eutaw Street, said the building’s owner had contacted him about opening a new location of the pub in Baltimore.
“We took one look at the building and knew it was it,” Palombo said. “It just screamed beer hall.”
Alewife opened Sept. 16, and Palombo said he is looking to open another location this year.
The Downtown Partnership also looked at new office and retail leases signed in the area, which is centered at the intersection of Light and Pratt streets. From the 129 total leases signed last year, 21 new office leases were signed and 27 new retailers joined the area. A few businesses also relocated from outside downtown last year as well, most notably accounting firm RSM McGladrey Inc. The firm added about 150 jobs downtown when it consolidated its downtown and Timonium offices and moved to Harbor East in July.
Among some of the other large leases in downtown Baltimore, Transamerica Life Insurance Co. relocated to 100 Light Street, taking up 140,526 square feet. Law firm Ober Kaler also moved to the same building, leasing 94,213 square feet, according to figures from Cushman & Wakefield in Baltimore. The two companies filled some of the gap left by money manager Legg Mason Inc. when it relocated from the building to new headquarters in Harbor East in 2009.
In total, at least 86 new leases were signed in 2010. Fowler said he did not have closure numbers for office and retail leases.
Pat Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said while the association doesn’t track retailers that leave the area, he said the first half of 2010 was dismal for retailers and their ability to stay afloat.
“The first six months were awful,” Donoho said. “But it all depends on the neighborhood and the type of merchant.”
In downtown Baltimore, out of 158 buildings and more than 20 million square feet of office space, 4.2 million square feet of that space was vacant last year, according to a fourth-quarter report by Cassidy Turley.