Small businesses in and around the site of the Grand Prix of Baltimore are hoping for a more positive economic impact this year. Race organizers say they are going to do everything they can to direct fans to surrounding neighborhoods.
Grand Prix manager Tim Mayer said they want to make sure that everyone feels the benefit of the event. “We’re doing PA announcements for people to go to various restaurants in the area; and go into Federal Hill, to go to Little Italy; to go to the restaurants on Pratt Street,” Mayer said
The push comes as an economic impact study commissioned by Race On LLC, the grand prix organizers, showed that last year’s race brought $42.3 million into the region, a 10 percent drop from 2011, the first year of the event. Race On had a short turn-around to put on the 2012 event. The original race manager was dismissed by the city after not paying its bills and another organizer missed deadlines.
In another gesture to the community, Mayer said they was able to reduce the construction time for the race track walls along city streets to 21 days after hearing feedback from businesses along Pratt Street. “Previously that was 31 days and when we weren’t managing it, it was 45 days so we have really consciously brought that amount of time down,” he said.
One of those businesses affected by the wall is the Pratt Street Ale House. “They got these walls up here that they’ve had up for over a week now and it cuts off foot traffic,” said Operations Manager Jayson Fricke. The ale house is hoping to make up for the impact by hosting a private event during the weekend.
Will Runnebaum, co-founder of Marcus-Boyd Realty on Light Street and president of the Federal Hill Business Association, is hoping that the PA Announcements benefit the businesses in the South Baltimore neighborhood. He said the neighborhood was cut off in the past. “There was misinformation that once you entered into the race compound that it was kind of like a concert and although you had identification armbands and things like that that you were not allowed free entrance and exiting of the race,” said Runnebaum.
In addition to PA announcements, Runnebaum said volunteers would be passing out postcards highlighting the Federal Hill business district and they will be holding an event on Saturday night called “Cars on Cross” featuring race cars on Cross Street.
The Light Street Café opened not long before last year’s race. They are planning to operate as normal through the entire weekend. “I’m more hoping that the people who live in the community are still staying in the community and visiting the businesses around here as well as the tourists or visitors would be able to roam around the different neighborhoods of the city,” said café owner Chris Tipton.