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BWI goes upscale with arrival of new retail spots, restaurants

Paul J. Wiedefeld, BWI executive director

The look inside BWI is increasingly local and upscale.

Travelers can dine on crab cakes at two Maryland seafood joints, sip Maryland beers from DuClaw Brewing Co., or relax in a new, locally owned lounge at the end of Concourse D.

The new restaurant and retail spots serve fliers who increasingly want amenities beyond fast food and newsstand fare from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

“Airports are no longer just transportation infrastructure. They’re really multi-modal, complex enterprises that contain virtually all of the commercial functions of the city,” said John D. Kasarda, a University of North Carolina professor who studies airport development. “That’s driving substantial commercial development not just in the terminals, but in the surrounding area.”

Be Relax is scheduled to open two French spas by the end of the month. Jewelry store Fire & Ice, an original Harborplace tenant, is opening a second location in the airport, spurred by the success of the first there. DuClaw operates a pub next to the Southwest Airlines ticket counters, before travelers get to the security checkpoint.

Paul J. Wiedefeld, the airport’s executive director, said the space for DuClaw opened up because more Southwest customers are checking into their flights online to skip the ticket counter lines.

Obrycki’s serves crab cakes between Southwest gates, and has opened another airport location in Cleveland, following in the steps of another big Maryland seafood name. The Phillips Seafood Restaurant chain has expanded into six airports since setting up shop in BWI.

Wiedefeld said Silver Diner is considering expansion into other airports after the success of its BWI spot.

“Silver Diner is more of a Washington-based restaurant, and we want to appeal to the customers in Washington,” said Wiedefeld.

One of the most recent additions to the airport is the Airspace Lounge, a quiet spot on Concourse D where travelers can plug in, connect to the Internet and order a beer and a sandwich.

“In the summer, during delays, you could auction off the power outlets out there,” said Anthony Tangorra, president and CEO of the lounge.

BWI is the first airport for Airspace, which opened last month, and Tangorra hopes to expand to more.

Wiedefeld said new retail and restaurants arrivals will continue.

“We have a number in the works that I can’t go public with yet,” he said, “but they’re along those lines — unique and local.”