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New small businesses are opening their doors in Inner Harbor. Owners say they are “pioneers” of the next phase of Harborplace

BALTIMORE – Several small businesses will soon open their storefronts in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Downtown Boost Harborplace’s local rental program involves selecting seven Black-owned businesses to open storefronts selling tea, jewelry, juice, clothing and books. It gives this certainty companies a temporary home while developers hope to replace the aging pavilions.

“We are what we call pioneers in what will be the next phase of Harborplace,” said Eric Dodson, owner of Cuples Tea.

Dodson returned Wednesday to where he stood decades ago as a 9th grader when Harborplace opened.

“As someone who grew up in Baltimore and was here when Harborplace first opened, it’s a great opportunity for us to open a business here now,” Dodson said.

Dodson joined Downtown Partnership, MCB Real Estate and six other small businesses to cut the ribbon on a two-year licensing agreement to do business in one of Baltimore’s most coveted locations.

Harborplace is far from the attraction it used to be, attracting millions of people every year in the 1980s.

The new owner, MCB Real Estate, wants the ttwo concrete pavilions and replace them with residential towersoffices and shops.

The proposal carries a price tag of nearly $1 billion, with costs shared between private and public funds.

It would create new park space and change traffic patterns, emphasizing pedestrians over cars.

The plan cleared the Planning Commission and the Baltimore City Council now goes to voters in the city in November to approve a change to the city charter.

A spot in a potentially blighted and redeveloped Harborplace isn’t a guarantee, but Cuples Tea owners Lynnette and Eric Dodson say it puts them on the porch of what’s to come.

“Some people will say, ‘Yes, Harborplace is crumbling and it’s old infrastructure,’ but we have the bones,” Dodson said. “Harborplace has the history and the bones.”

The developer says bringing in seven new local businesses is part of a deliberate effort to create a unique experience.

“Prioritizing local businesses is what will make us successful,” said Adam Genn of MCB Real Estate.

These seven Boost recipients pay rent, whichever is higher, between $10 per square foot or 10% of gross revenue.

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