The development firm building the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center and amusement park says it is moving at a brisk pace to lease shops in the Howard County site.
Jack Pechtner, a partner in Towson-based JHP Development, said the shopping center on Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City is 75 percent leased. More than one-third of the 138,166 square feet of store space will be occupied by a Safeway grocery store.
Safeway will relocate from its store near the site at 10111 Baltimore National Pike.
Pechtner said other tenants include MDS Stores, a children's clothing store and Smythe Jewelers. The center also has signed on a cosmetics store, a card shop and three restaurants -- a pizza shop and Italian and Chinese eating establishments.
"We're very, very pleased," Pechtner said. "It's doing much better than we thought it would."
JHP bought the site in December 1988. The developer says it expects to have the remaining space leased before it opens the 32-acre site next spring.
Pechtner said his company has been able to lease the stores without much difficulty because tenants believe they would be able to draw business from Columbia residents to the south and the emerging neighboring communities along U.S. 40.
He added that the site would be the last major shopping area in the western part of Howard County.
The Enchanted Forest development also would include the reopening of the once-popular theme amusement park that was built in the mid-1950s by the late Howard E. Harrison but closed three years ago after running into financial problems.
While the facility sat vacant, a fire was set to an area of the park in January 1990, causing $75,000 in damage.
The park had a storybook theme for young children that included Huck Finn's Fishing Hole, Humpty Dumpty's Wall, Robinson Crusoe's Island, Snow White's House, the Gingerbread House, Cinderella's Castle and Jungle Land.
At the peak of Enchanted Forest's popularity in the 1960s, about 300,000 people visited the park during each six-month season. Attendance slipped over the years, however, with the construction of modern parks with fast rides such as Kings Dominion.
Pechtner said the new park would be scaled down from its original size, but that many of the most popular features would be revived. He said it would be an inexpensive way for parents to treat their children because the cost of admission would be about $3 for children.
He said the amusement park and shopping center would complement one another in summer months when parents want to treat their children before shopping and eating.
More than 1,000 parking spaces are planned to accommodate (( crowds during the months the park is open.
"The reason they mix so well is that in certain months of summer, retail is down," Pechtner said. "The amusement park would bring people to the center."