More than 30 years later, Harborplace is still viable and still commercially successful, although not necessarily what it once was. There are any number of reasons for this, from competition elsewhere to the natural evolution of any attraction — but surely one big problem involved its owners and the lack of sufficient investment in the properties as ownership transferred from Rouse Co. to Chicago-based
This week's announcement from
We would echo that sentiment. This transaction could mark a fresh start for Harborplace, which has already been on the rebound over the last two years. Fewer storefronts are empty than before, and some high-profile tenants, including the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium, are bringing more visitors to the downtown. The Inner Harbor continues to attract an estimated 15 million tourists each year — believe it or not — and that makes it not just a source of pride but jobs.
Despite a certain naysaying politician from the suburbs, claims that Baltimore's downtown isn't safe fly in the face of facts, as do complaints that parking has become too expensive. Violent crime is actually down in Baltimore, and while parking costs have risen, they've mostly just kept up with 32 years of inflation. Meanwhile, there's a lot more to see and do around the Inner Harbor than there was in July 1980, when Harborplace first opened its doors — nearby football and baseball stadiums, the Inner
Not to fault General Growth, a company invested heavily in shopping malls, but Harborplace is simply not the typical retail center and probably shouldn't be populated by chain stores that can be found just as readily in other nearby locations. Surely, nobody knows that better than Ashkenazy. Washington's Union Station, also a retail center owned by Ashkenazy, might also be the model of an urban attraction with entertainment, dining, specialty shopping and a high coolness factor.
Why should anyone care about the future of a couple of shopping pavilions that happen to be on the water? The Inner Harbor remains a critically important economic asset for the city. For millions of visitors who come here on day trips, to see a sporting event or concert, or perhaps attend a convention or stay overnight on business, it is the face of Baltimore. Its success helps keep the Inner Harbor a success, which helps maintain downtown as an employment center, and so on.