Loans On The Way For Final Savage Mill Renovations

More Shops, Studios, Restaurant Space Slated For 70,000 Square Feet

September 23, 1990|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

The last major phase of the Historic Savage Mill renovation, scheduled to be finished next year, is in line for a $900,000 boost next month in the form of loans from Howard County.

The $2.3 million Phase III project will create about 70,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and studio space in the mill's Old Weave Room and Carding Building. Potential tenants, as well as current tenants who plan to expand their businesses, have expressed interest in leasing about 50 to 60 percent of the space so far, said Stuart Title, sales and leasing director for the developer, A.J. Properties.

Operators of Antique Center I and Antique Center II, already in the mill, intend to lease the entire 19,000 square feet on the lower level of the mill's Old Weave Room to create Antique Center III.

Renovation is expected to begin in January and be completed in about a year, said Fred Gottemoeller, executive vice president for A.J. Properties.

"We would like to get the space open by Christmas of next year, but we're not going to rush it," said Title.

A.J. Properties also intends to convert the river-straddling Boiler House to a restaurant after Phase III. The Boiler House was built in 1916 and badly damaged by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. But developers said it is uncertain when that project might go forward.

The Phase III project is the last step in the 170-year-old cotton mill's restoration and conversion from run-down industrial and warehouse space into a combination shopping mall, antique center, museum and arts and crafts center.

The renovations will add about 40 jobs to the mill's existing 275-strong work force, said Robert Vogel, county deputy chief administrative officer.

Vogel testified about the project during a public hearing before the County Council on Tuesday.

The council is expected to approve a package of legislation on Oct. 1 authorizing Howard County to borrow $600,000 from the Maryland Industrial Development Finance Authority, and in turn lend it to the Savage Mill Limited Partnership.

The legislation also will allow the county to lend an additional $300,000, leftover money from the county's 1990 operating budget. The limited partnership is investing an additional $100,000, and another $82,500 will come from the Maryland Child Care Development Loan Fund. The balance of the project's cost is being financed by a $1.2 million bank loan, $775,000 of which is guaranteed by the state.

Structural renovations of the first segment of Phase III, the Child Resource Center, were completed this week, said Savage Mill spokeswoman Ellie Butehorn.

The day care center, on the first floor of the 1822-vintage Carding Building, is expected to open in early November.

In addition, the center will offer Friday and Saturday evening baby-sitting, short-term baby-sitting for shoppers and museum-style weekend children's programs, teaching children about life in the village of Savage during the 1800s.

Butehorn said the weekend activities will "center around all of the activities that were current during the 19th century: dyeing cloth, weaving, pressing apples for cider, making corn-husk dolls, and playing dress-up in 19th-century clothing."

The first two phases of the renovations cost about $4 million, financed through a loan from First American Bank, Gottemoeller said.

Phase I, completed in April 1986, converted the run-down and empty New Weave Room into 50,000 square feet of retail space, all of which is now leased.

Phase II, completed in May 1988, refurbished the Cotton Shed to make 26,000 square feet for European and American antiques.

Mill management is still seeking a suitable tenant to operate a restaurant in the Old Weave Room. The family-style restaurant, with outdoor seating overlooking the Little Patuxent River, should help draw customers to the mill, Title said.

The mall is currently served by Warfield's cafeteria-style eatery, which has gone to court to fight its eviction for alleged lease violations.

Management is seeking a new food vendor to occupy Warfield's space.

Although some tenants have reported disappointing traffic through New Weave Room's mall area, Title said sales figures have increased steadily, by about 20 percent a year. Title was reluctant to give annual figures, but he estimated that at the slower times of the year, sales are running at about $500,000 a month.

He pointed out that the mall was an incubator for specialty businesses that might seem too risky for other malls to take on, such as the Hands of Time clock shop.

"No one could have projected how well he's done at this place," Title said. Hands of Time started with 200 square feet and has been successful enough to expand to 4,200 square feet, he said.

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