BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- If you're going to head north for the Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop at the new Chesapeake House rest stop.
As Mike Schuh explains, the Baltimore design team sought to make sure motorists know they are in Maryland.
Remember this place? What a dump. The state thought so too and got rid of the dark and dirty Chesapeake House. Now there is a new house in the old one's shadow.
"A lot of thought. A lot of really hard work went into this," said Donny Ankri, Ayers Saint Gross Architects.
It shows. From a garden isolated from vehicles:
"I think that's again one of the most fundamental ideas to the whole project is that we wanted to make a large, warm wooden ceiling," said Murali Ramaswami, Ayers Saint Gross Architects.
...To a ceiling that resembles the bow of a boat on the bay. The rest stop is very simple on the outside and everything the old one wasn't.
"We wanted to save the impact for what they are coming in for," said Ramaswami.
From Maryland products to up-to-date retail, the reviews are glowing.
"I thought it was pretty nice. I told these guys when I first walked in I felt like I was in an airport," said Nichole Pelick, Pennsylvania.
"This is why I say only in America. You go to Europe, you don't see this. It's beautiful. Beautiful. It's clean," said Bernardo Campangolo, New Jersey.
And it's free--sort of. Areas USA is a company that builds and runs rest stops. They designed it, built it, paid for it and will operate it. The state gets a percentage of the profits.
Charley Greenland with Ayers Saint Gross kept the project on time and on budget.
"Oh, I think everybody's really happy with it. It really does look like, when you drive in here, you can feel that, 'Oh yeah, I'm in Maryland.' And this is a symbol of the Chesapeake Bay," said Greenland.
"We think that this building will give every visitor a lasting impression on the state of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay," said Ankri.
The proof will be how many of the three million visitors per year decide to return.
Chesapeake House was scheduled to open in mid-September, but construction crews beat that deadline by six weeks.
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