Goal is to lure shoppers from other centers


October 16, 1991|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Carolyn Bodie, vice president, Gray Kirk VanSant, advertising and public relations firm

An article in yesterday's Business section about the opening of the expanded Towson Town Center incorrectly stated the days for the mall's "Bay-nanza" event and first shopping day. In fact, Bay-nanza was held Tuesday night, and the expanded mall's doors opened to shoppers yesterday.

What was once a dowdy shopping center in Towson will be reborn tonight as the glitziest mall in suburban Baltimore -- where shoppers can spend away under a vaulted dome, surrounded by etched glass, palm trees and whimsical statues of mythical creatures and deities.

Towson Town Center, expanded and renovated at a cost of $150 million, has nearly doubled in size to become the largest collection of specialty stores in the Baltimore suburbs -- 140 of them, with another 60 expected when the mall is fully leased.


"When we're fully leased, we'll have something for everyone -- promotional-priced retailers up to high-end retailers. We're going be everything to everybody," promised Diane Lewis, the mall's marketing director.

Towson Town Center, located at Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads, will give the public its first glimpse of its new look tonight as it stages a celebration called "Bay-nanza," a lavish preview party. The doors will open for serious shopping tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

Retail industry specialists expect the revitalized mall to make a big mark on the Baltimore retail scene.

"I think it's going to be absolutely phenomenal," says Will Ferrell of the Daniel Group, a Towson-based real estate consulting firm.

The expanded Towson mall can be expected to draw customers away from the Owings Mills and Hunt Valley malls and, to a lesser extent, White Marsh, Mr. Ferrell predicted.

He said the impact of Towson Town Center's expansion will be especially strongly felt next fall with the opening of Nordstrom, the high-end department store chain.

"Nordstrom is probably the No. 1-drawing department store in the country today -- because of marketing, product knowledge and advertising. I think it's going to be a tremendous draw for Towson Town Center," Mr. Ferrell said.

He pointed out that many Baltimore customers who now travel to the Washington area to shop at Nordstrom will go to Towson Town instead.

Shoppers at the expanded Towson Town Center, managed by the Hahn Co. of San Diego, won't have to wait for Nordstrom to get their hands on classy merchandise.

Besides the usual array of merchants already represented in Baltimore-area malls -- including Hess Shoes, Banana Republic, the Athlete's Foot, Casual Corner and Victoria's Secret -- Towson Town Center is introducing new retailers to the metropolitan market.

At the Museum Shop, for instance, customers can select museum reproductions ranging from fine art prints to gold jewelry.

At the low end of the price spectrum are such retailers as the Lerner women's wear store, Rite Aid pharmacy and the Hair Cuttery.

"We're 85 percent committed, and in this economy, that's a good record," said Christopher Schardt, general manager of Towson Town.

Some Towson-area merchants and business people are concerned that the expansion of Towson Town Center will mean an increase in traffic congestion, especially along York Road in downtown Towson.

"I wish them a lot of luck, but I think the mall is going to create a horrible traffic jam," says Dick Rudolph, owner of the Towson Bootery, a family-owned shoe store that has operated in the heart of Towson for 44 years.

"There are some concerns regarding the traffic impact to the area. But the positives are the new jobs that the mall will create," said Susan DiLonardo, executive director of the Towson Business Association.

Even if traffic congestion becomes a problem, the mall's expansion should be a net positive for Towson retailing, said Lawrence Taubman, general partner of Taubman Properties L.P., owner of Dulaney Plaza, across Dulaney Valley road from Towson Town Center.

"We're happy because we think it's a great addition to Towson. We think Towson has long needed a first-class regional mall and that more people will be coming to the Towson area to shop," Mr. Taubman said.

Spokeswomen for White Marsh Mall and Owings Mills Mall insist they can hold their own against the newly expanded Towson Town Center.

"The Towson area is more of a secondary market for us. Our primary market is within the White Marsh area and north. We're very heavy into Harford County," said Janice Biele, manager of sales and marketing at White Marsh.

At Owings Mills Mall, General Manager Robin Mosle admitted that some customers who now shop there will be drawn to the expanded Towson Town Center.

But she said that population growth in the Owings Mills and Pikesville areas should more than make up for that.

"We think we can both thrive successfully in the Baltimore County market," she said.

New and different

Among the retailers opening their first Baltimore-area stores in the Towson Town Center this week are:

* Audrey Jones: Large-size designer fashions

* J. Riggings: Men's casual apparel

* The Game Keeper: Games for all ages

* Natural Wonders: Environment-related products

* B.O.Q.: Men's footwear and accessories

* Precis: Women's footwear

* Country Accents: Crafts

* Pottery Barn: Housewares

* NordicTrack: Exercise equipment

* Classic Creations: Nail designers

* Hold Everything: Boxes, containers

* Museum Co.: Museum collection reproductions

* Waves: Cassettes, videos, CDs

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