Greetings from Stehekin, WA. I watched #exlog 69 with great interest since I was personally involved with the 1980 Operational & Management opening of Harbor Place. This was one of my very first Rouse Company assignments having just moved and lured away to Baltimore by Rouse from (DeBartolo) Youngstown. I of course knew my way around Baltimore a bit as I previously while with DeBartolo handled both Security Square and Glen Burnie malls. Our newly appointed GM at Harbor Place was Anthony Hawkins and who previously also worked at our already then beleaguered Mondawmin Mall in Northwest Baltimore. But which is another mall story for another time.
It was also a busy time for us in development as Santa Monica Place and White Marsh and a Columbia Mall expansion were in the making, besides Burlington Center and The Grand Avenue in Milwaukee were on their way as well. Harbor Place presented us however with a series of all new opening and development challenges as it was not a typical shopping center as we knew it. As such Jim Rouse so appropriately and personally crafted the name “Festival Market Places.” Harbor Place was also very much different from our earlier 1976 opened Faneuil Hall in Boston, as the foot-traffic and sales in Boston never even came close to Harbor Place. We at Rouse also did not went “all-out” with our design, décor and architectural improvements at Faneuil Hall like we did in Harbor Place. We essentially spend much less money in building Faneuil Hall and as Jim Rouse did have a much better relationship and first-hand allegiance with the Baltimore City leadership rather then the stuffy and bramish Boston boys.
We simply however never anticipated for business to be as good for Harbor Place as it turned out to be, and all major restaurants were quickly forced due to space constraints in preparing “ready-made meals off-site” in order to stay ahead of the masses of customers needing to be served. WOW...this was a Rouse Company first situation. The big mistake we made was in not having provided for enough extra tenant storage spaces, not enough loading Dock capacity, not enough parking spaces, not enough utilities to allow for additional back-of-the -house and separate tenant onsite food prepping. So those together became a huge logistical and tenant relation nightmare. Even our regular Food Court tenants had a hard time keeping up with the long lines of cuing customers and as well needed more remote food prepping space and onsite storage.
The Harbor Place Paradox: Tenants actually lost money with the crowds being so overwhelming and thus not being able to serving them or simply loosing customers in long lines with money in their hands. We also found ourselves with a great shortage of inside and outside seating and virtually had to more than triple our furniture inventory. Common Area Maintenance Charges (CAM) hugely exceeded our estimates and wound up being double and or triple compared to our suburban shopping centers. Electricity costs in all of the Pavilions and with over (inside & outside) 30,000 light bulbs, (strip-lighting) burning 24/7 (allowing for night time cleaning) and then the air-conditioning and exhausts running 24/7, these costs were unimaginable and never considered. I could go on with stories and happenings you would not believe and then some. But not to boring you to tears, I wanted to share the above as it again stands as a complete paradox and what traffic in malls has now become and how things have changed. But this was as things were at Harbor Place and a time we felt that malls will keep on coming and their dream would never end.
Anthony Hawkins at the amphitheater at Harbor Place and between the landmark pavilions where he served as the Rouse Company GM four decades ago. “My whole family on both sides is from Baltimore and Harbor Place is personal to me, said Tony!" Tony came a long way and oversaw the project for 15-years. Bad times and good times. Good times when the tall ships came to Baltimore for the country’s bicentennial, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors, including tens of thousands of Baltimoreans, to the waterfront.
Harbor Place was always packed to the gills. Drawing 21-million people to the Inner Harbor that first year and sparking a waterfront renaissance from Fort McHenry to Canton beyond the business community’s wildest dreams.
Sunday early morning. Before the crowds and the busses from Washington DC arrived. We literally got thousands of tourists which visited Washington DC and wanted to see Harbor Place. As such major tour bus operators quickly caught on and offering special Harbor Place tours. In 2018 nearly 22 million domestic tourists visited Washington, D.C, a boon for Baltimore by being right next door.
Light Street Pavilion. Places to sit down and eat and parking were nearly impossible to find.
I still have my much cherished Mug and which I gotten as a gift from Tom Sunday at Thrasher’s French Fries. Thrasher’s as small as they were; coming to Harbor Place was a big deal for Rouse and bringing their world famous "French Fries" finally to Baltimore all the way from the Boardwalks and Ocean City.