Subtle excitement' urged to revive Sherwood Square

Ghost-town atmosphere upsets remaining mall tenants

February 17, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER - What Sherwood Square Mall on Main Street needs is "subtle excitement."

With the right mix of shops, offices and apartment space, the mall, now practically empty, could be resurrected, say some tenants and others who know the property.

Subtle excitement would be a feeling customers got when they walked into the mall, said John P. Donofrio of Westminster, one of the mall's original partners. If the atmosphere was right, they would know they could find a good selection of quality merchandise and excellent service, he said.

The mall has little excitement now. It's three-quarters empty with most of the first-floor retail space locked or chained. At the end of the month, it will lose another tenant when Rick's Deli closes.

The ghost-town atmosphere has left some of the remaining tenants disgruntled and disappointed.

"This mall is no longer a viable retail environment," said Raymond C. Beaumier, owner of Tige's Collectables, a baseball card shop.

Not many people walk through the mall, located in the heart of downtown, because there isn't much to see, he said. Beaumier is opening a second store this week in a strip shopping center on Route 140.

Ten tenants, including three offices and a dance studio upstairs, will be left at the end of the month. The 50,000-square-foot mall, which has undergone various renovations in the last 11 years, has never been more than half-full.

In the early 1 980s, developers and city officials called the mall the "keystone" to downtown revitalization.

In August 1989, a Baltimore bank bought the property at a foreclosure auction after nearly four years of legal batfles with previous owners who ran into financial problems. At the time, Michael Kalis, a vice president at Fairfax Savings Association, said the bank would be "fixing up" the building and making a "serious" effort to find tenants.

Beaumier, who moved in about a year ago, said. "All the advantages I had here have disappeared. and this mall is nothing but a complete disadvantage to any business.

The baseball card shop was the last new store to move into the mall.

Robert M. Coffey, owner of Coffey Music, said his business is doing well, but he'd be happier if the store fronts across the hall weren't dark.

"If it was my operation. I'd reduce the rents to get people in here," he said.

Rick caplan, owner of Rick's Dell, said he's moving because the bank planned to raise his rent when his lease expires March 1 and because sales have been off. He said he's trying to sell the business to someone who will continue operating it as a dell.

Yolanda Kirkpatrick, owner of World Elite Travel, said her sales have improved 150 percent" since she moved from Sherwood Square to 140 Village Shopping Center in September.

The bank is trying to sell the mall and for the last six months has been worKing with a Baltimore County real estate agent who is interested in buying it, said mall manager Marty Christensen. Bank officials could not be reached for comment.

Michael L. Mason, a commercial Realtor in Westminster who has shown prospective buyers through the mall, said Sherwood Square could be successful if changes were made.

"It needs to be physically freshened up. It needs decorating ideas to make it fun to walk through," he said.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who owned a candy shop in the mall for two years. said. "The problem all along is the pockets of the developers haven't been deep enough."

Brown said the prospective buyer talked with him about six months ago and had plans to convert the building to office space but would allow the stores that face Main Street to stay.

Maryl Harshey, owner of Maryl's Interiors, said the mall "originally was created as a quaint, interesting boutique mall like Elicott City."

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