The Southern Gateway Entertainment District Begins to Take Shape Near M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore

M&T Bank Stadium first opened in 1998 and now, 20 years later, the area just south of the home of the Ravens is attracting a lot of investment and a lot of new entertainment options. Baltimore City is now calling this area the Southern Gateway entertainment district. Much of this investment is being spurred by the opening of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which opened in 2014 a couple blocks south of the stadium, and the momentum of real estate development and investment in the South Baltimore Peninsula neighborhoods just east of this area.

Southern Gateway is partially in Stadium Area and partially in Carroll-Camden Industrial area. It is focused around Warner St. between Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and M&T Bank Stadium and Ostend St., which connects the South Baltimore Peninsula neighborhoods of  of Federal Hill, South Baltimore, and Sharp-Leadenhall to Pigtown. Southern Gateway will soon be the home of a large music venue, a Topgolf facility, a brewery, renovated office buildings, a renovated M&T Bank Stadium, and a large entertainment-focused mixed-used development connecting the casino and stadium. In recent years, Southern Gateway was comprised mostly of vacant warehouse and industrial properties.

The first investment in the area after the opening of Horseshoe Casino was sports bar Game at 1400 Warner St. It opened in 2015 and converted a one-story section of a mostly vacant warehouse into a 10,000 sq. ft. sports bar. It features games such as ping pong, pool, air hockey, and sports arcade games. Game owner James Trujillo saw the vision for this area and is happy other investments are starting to follow suit. “We are excited and were hoping that other people would invest and make this area successful,” said Trujillo.

Trujillo said that day-to-day business at Game has not yet been what he has expected, but that he has made up for it by hosting a lot of corporate and special events and getting great crowds during Ravens games. “I got in early,” said Trujillo. “If I would’ve waited, I never could have afforded it.”

He is hoping all of the new businesses are successful and bring many people to the area. He thinks Game can be a destination for those looking for a “local spot” when visiting attractions such as the Topgolf and Horseshoe.

Game’s property was recently purchased by Horseshoe Casino owners CBAC, which is comprised of Caesars, Rock Gaming, and local developers Caves Valley Partners (CVP). CBAC now owns five large properties along Warner St. and is planning an entreatment-focused redevelopment that will include Topgolf and more mixed-use options which are likely to include a hotel. Trujillo does not currently have a long-term lease but said his preliminary meetings with CBAC have been “gracious.”

“My dream is to get a long-term deal,” Trujillo told SouthBMore.com.

When Trujillo found out the building was sold earlier this year, he was surprised at first, but was happy that CVP was the buyer. Trujillo is a fan of their work on projects that include Stadium Square, which is located just a block east of Southern Gateway. Trujillo sees Game working together long term with CVP and is excited for the future.

Kevin Butler bought the trademark to Hammerjacks in 2009 and when he decided he wanted to bring back his favorite rock music club from the late 1980s, he immediately began to look for opportunities near M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino. Hammerjacks had several locations in Baltimore, but its heyday was at its Howard St. location which was eventually purchased and torn down to create parking lots for Ravens tailgating. Lots H and Lots J are named in honor of the former Hammerjacks.

Butler was drawn to this area to honor the Hammerjacks of the past, but also believed this could become the best entertainment area in Baltimore. He initially proposed a plan to open Hammerjacks at Lot N, but later decided to partner with Andy Hotchkiss and build Hammerjacks at 1300 Russell St., which was the former home of club Paradox and a vacant warehouse that was most recently the home to a ceramic tile company.

The new Hammerjacks will be a 48,000 sq. ft. live music venue, club, and beer garden. A 2,500-person concert venue will replace Paradox. The existing warehouse facing Ostend St. will be renovated into a club/sports bar area that will feature smaller 300-person live music shows. An outdoor beer garden area will be constructed where a structure connecting the two building sits. Along Ostend St., the property will have space for 3,000 sq. ft. of ground floor retail. Butler and Hotchkiss are eyeing a coffee shop and bike shop for the space. Hammerjacks is located along the Gwynns Falls Trail.

Rendering courtesy of Design Collective 

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The project recently began construction, five years after Butler first announced Hammerjacks was coming back. Hammerjacks will completely open in early 2019, but is hoping to have the beer garden open for some of the Ravens homes games this season.

“I saw the vision of this southern entertainment district, and now its coming to life. That’s why I picked this location,” said Butler. “Andy and I are really excited to bring this iconic venue back to Baltimore.”

“We are also happy and excited to see the continued development of the Southern Gateway,” he added. “We know that Hammerjacks will help in further establishing Baltimore as a great place to live and visit.”

Butler and Hotchkiss are also looking at additional investment opportunities in the area.

Himmelrich Associates owns four buildings in the area. This includes 190 West Ostend Street, a 50,000 sq. ft. office building that was renovated in previous years, and 211 Stockholm Street, a warehouse located on a 4.5-acre waterfront site. Himmelrich’s Ashley Tarran-Jones told SouthBMore.com in 2015 that they plan to redevelop this property in the future. Himmelrich’s two additional buildings in this area are currently undergoing redevelopment.

190 West Ostend Street

211 Stockholm Street

Himmelrich’s ‘Spring Garden’ building, a 60,000 sq. ft. flex office building at 175 W. Ostend St., is currently undergoing a renovation that will add an additional floor of office space. One new tenant will be a trade school.

Along with Ostend St., Spring Garden faces Sharp St. and that side of the building is getting a new retail presence with the addition of Checkerspot Brewing Company. Checkerspot will be a 10,000 sq. ft. production brewery and tap room with a full kitchen. It will open in phases with its first-floor tap room opening later this month on June 30th.

Checkerspot, named after the official Maryland butterfly, is the creation of husband and wife Rob and Judy Neff, as well as their business partner Steve Marsh. The team at Checkerspot is hoping the brewery will be a neighborhood hangout with its location close to Federal Hill, South Baltimore, and Pigtown, and they are also looking forward to big Ravens gameday crowds. They are hoping customers will also visit from the Gwynns Falls Trail bike path, which runs in front of the brewery, and off the Light Rail Hamburg Street Station, which is a couple blocks away. They are also hoping to be a draw for tourists who might be in town to check out the growing brewery industry in Baltimore.

The team at Checkerspot is excited to be around an area that will soon have many entertainment options. “We are very excited with this new development (from CBAC), especially being part of the entertainment district,” said Judy Neff. “The location is great being so close to Downtown and South Baltimore neighborhoods, as well as being easily accessible for people coming from outside of the city.”

“I think this will bring more people into the city for fun times and the positivity that Baltimore has to offer. We’re so excited to finally get started,” she added.

Himmelrich is also currently finishing its redevelopment of the Parker Metal Building at 333 W. Ostend St. into a 50,000 sq. ft. office building and event space. This building had been vacant since the mid-1990s. The building now has new windows, a new paint job, and a rear addition. The property also has a parking lot that is shared with Spring Garden.

Tarran-Jones told SouthBMore.com in 2015 that Stadium Square has really “moved the needle” in the immediate area.

CVP’s Stadium Square redevelopment project, which is adjacent to Spring Garden, ecompasses three blocks of the South Baltimore neighborhood and Sharp-Leadenhall located between Cross St. on the north, Race St. on the east, Leadenhall St. on the west, and both sides of Ostend St. to the south. The project will have approximately 600 apartments including an affordable apartment building for veterans, three renovated rowhomes providing affordable housing to police officers, 2,000 parking spaces, 450,000 sq. ft. of office space, and 75,000 sq. ft. of retail when completed.

Already completed at Stadium Square is the 299-unit Hanover Cross Street luxury apartment building with 14,000 sq. ft. of retail, as well as the 72,000 sq. ft. office building 145 W. Ostend St. which is more than 50% leased. Construction recently began on the 2,400 sq. ft. Leadenhall Community Center. The next project at Stadium Square will be the repurposing of the former four-story Vac Pac building at 150 W. Ostend St. into a 30,000 sq. ft. office building with ground floor retail.

CVP is also working with the community and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks on a new Master Plan for Solo Gibbs Park, which is located in between Stadium Square and M&T Bank Stadium, and initiated conversations with MTA to improve pedestrian access to the Hamburg Street Light station which is in Ravens Parking Lot G. This project recently received  $240,000 from a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) grant for design and construction.

“CVP is very excited to see all of the investment occurring in the South Baltimore area, ranging from the Ravens’ improvements to the football stadium, new entertainment offerings along Warner Street being led by the CBAC team, office and retail additions to existing buildings in the area, and our own efforts with mixed-use projects and community improvements at Stadium Square,” said CVP Partner Arsh Mirmiran. “We have long held that South Baltimore is fundamentally among the best real estate in all of Baltimore, in terms of variety of amenities and transportation access, and the amount of investment planned will help put the area back to where it was a decade or so ago atop Baltimore’s neighborhoods.”

The Ravens are also upping their investment in the area with $144 million of improvements to M&T Bank Stadium.

Phase 1, which was completed in the 2017 offseason, included two new 200 ft.-wide and 36 ft.-high 4K ultra-high definition video boards in the end zones, replacing the existing boards, and installing the stadium’s second LED ribbon display above the club level.

Construction for Phase 2 is currently underway. Improvements that will be ready for the 2018 Ravens season include a new sound system in the seating bowl and two new, two-level suites in the “corner notches” between the upper decks on the west side of the stadium. The new suites are under construction in the corner notches on the east side of the stadium but are not expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2018 season. Large 4K ultra-high definition video boards, measuring approximately 33 ft. wide and 44 ft. high, will also be installed atop each of the four suites providing fans with additional in-game content, NFL highlights/scores, statistics, and fantasy information. The four new video boards will be ready for the 2018 season.

Improvements will also include upgrades to the club level’s concession stands, bathrooms, and bar/lounge areas; upgrades to the stadium’s kitchen facilities, which include building an additional kitchen; and a new sound system.

New escalators to the upper deck are currently under construction. The first set of escalators on the southeast side of stadium will be available mid-season 2018 and the second set on the northwest side of stadium will be ready for the start of 2019 season.

The Ravens have described this investment as, “demonstrating a continued commitment to create an exceptional gameday atmosphere.” M&T Bank Stadium was recently named the top NFL stadium experience by Stadium Journey.

The Ravens are also excited about all the new amenities coming outside the south side of their stadium. “We are very happy about it. We are excited about the development,” said Ravens president Dick Cass. “I think whatever is good for the area around the stadium is good for us. I think it will improve the gameday experience for the fans with more activities to do which will get them into the area sooner, keep them here longer.”

Cass also noted that an improved area will help with the additional events including soccer games and concerts. “When you try to attract other events, you try to convince promoters that this is a great place to be.” He said that the Ravens will get back to hosting more events after the completion of the renovations after the 2019 season.

The Ravens are hoping one of those events will be the 2026 World Cup. Yesterday, FIFA announced that a combined bid from Canada, Mexico, and the United States was selected as the host of the 2026 competition which has been named United 2026. Baltimore has made United 2026’s list of 23 potential cities. This list was recently trimmed down from 32 cities. There will be 16 cities selected to host the World Cup and likely 10 or 11 will be in the United States, according to analysts.

FIFA will make the final selections of the cities around 2020, and investments to M&T Bank Stadium and the surrounding area will certainly be a part of Baltimore’s pitch.

The largest investment to the area will be from CBAC which has spent $12,259,500 in recent years on three large properties along Warner St. This includes 1400 Warner St., a three-story, 41,193 sq. ft. building on a 1.476 acre property; 1300 Warner St., a four-story, 91,744 sq. ft. long-vacant building on 1.3 acres; and 1301 Warner St.. a two-story building, 31,377 sq. ft. building on a 1.26 acre property. 1400 Warner St. is partially the home of Game, but much of the remaining section of the building is vacant.

1300 Warner St. on the right and 1301 Warner St. on the left

1400 Warner

Also along Warner St., CBAC has partnered with Topgolf to redevelop Parking Lot J, which CBAC has the option with Baltimore City to purchase for redevelopment, and the current location of the City-owned Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS) and The Office of Animal Control facility at 301 Stockholm St. The combined properties are more than six acres and the Topgolf facility will be a 65,000 sq. ft. BARCS is relocating to Cherry Hill.

Topgolf’s three-story building featuring a large sports bar and driving range bays will front Warner St. on Lot J. The 215-yard driving range will span eastward across the property through the current BARCS site. Kevin Charhon, director of real estate at Topgolf, said that the project is still in the design phase, but it does plan to incorporate the Middle Branch waterfront on the southern end of the property into the design.

Topgolf’s main attraction is its point-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that instantly score themselves, showing players the accuracy and distance of their shots on a TV screen in their hitting bay.

COO Craig Kessler said at a press event in May that it was “a special day for Topgolf ” and noted that the company is excited for opening a downtown location alongside the Ravens and Horseshoe Casino. Most of Topgolf’s facilities are in more suburban settings.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and the venue is expected to open in 2020. Topgolf will create 500 full- and part-time jobs. It expects about 450,000 visitors a year.

CBAC now owns all but one property on Warner St. between Horseshoe and M&T Bank Stadium. The one building CBAC does not own is Public Storage at 1415 Russell St., which also faces Warner.

CVP’s Arthur Adler told SouthBMore.com, “Public Storage is a viable and strong company. We are going to keep ourselves busy with the properties we acquired, but who knows what the future holds.”

Caesars Entertainment Regional President Erin Chamberlin, who is the general manager of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, told SouthBMore.com last month that CBAC will reveal a vision for Warner St. by the end of the summer. She said the goal is to drive visitors with attractions you can’t get elsewhere. She also said that Horseshoe is trying to bring a “Vegas-style” experience to Baltimore. CBAC representatives have expressed their desire for a hotel since opening.

“We’re pleased to be part of a multi-dimensional effort to redevelop the Southern Gateway into a world-class entertainment destination that will increase visitation to the area from both residents and out-of-towners,” Chamberlin told SouthBMore.com in an email. “When we first announced our plans for the casino, we said we were committed to serving as a catalyst to transform what was a largely vacant industrial area into a vibrant entertainment district. It’s exciting to see that promise being realized as our vision for the city’s most diverse collection of gaming, dining, sports and music venues continues to materialize. The progress we’ve achieved to date has only strengthened our dedication to seeing the transformation through to its completion.”

Chamberlin also thanked Mayor Catherine Pugh, the Baltimore City Council, and the Baltimore Development Corporation for supporting this project.

Some believe the revitalization of Southern Gateway could help bring the momentum of the South Baltimore Peninsula neighborhoods, which sit to the east of this area and have attracted constant development, investment and construction in recent decades, to Pigtown which is just west of this area. The entire area is connected by Ostend St.

Pigtown has seen levels of investment increase in recent years, but not nearly to the level of South Baltimore which has more than three times the median household income as Pigtown, almost three times the median price of homes sold, and almost one fifth the crime rate of Pigtown according to 2016 census results.

“I think we can bridge the gap between Federal Hill and Pigtown, and both communities can enjoy what Hamerjacks has to offer,” said Butler.

The Citizens of Pigtown (COP) Board told SouthBMore.com the following in an email: “COP welcomes investment in our community and the positive growth that is coming along with the development of this new Southern Gateway Entertainment District. Of course, with that said, community input is truly important for a successful Entertainment District to be realized.”

They also said, “COP appreciates the lengths some of these business owners, such as Hammerjacks, has taken to reach out to the community and involve them with their project development. We would like to see more of the developers follow the Hammerjacks example and get involved with COP as their projects move forward. ”

Properties under the control of CBAC. Additional investments in the area marked with text and logos. Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps (click to enlarge)

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About the Author:

Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O’s fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and “bar food” foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.

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