Shopping center offers the basics and more New complex features 30 stores, McDonald's

November 24, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

Bessie Handschuh has lived 72 years in Locust Point without finding it necessary to own a shopping cart.

Today, thanks to a $10 million shopping center that opened just beyond her South Baltimore backyard, she has one.

"I used to have to go out to Ritchie Highway to do my grocery shopping," said Ms. Handschuh, who was on hand yesterday for the grand opening of 128,000 square feet of stores at Southside Market Place on Fort Avenue.

"I can walk down here now with my little cart, fill it up, and go home. I love it," she said.

Anchored by a Basics supermarket, the 9.9-acre shopping center in the shadow of one of Locust Point's best-known landmarks, the Domino Sugar sign, has room for 30 stores and features a McDonald's, a fabric store, a veterinarian and a discount clothing store.

Santa Claus was on hand yesterday to listen to Christmas requests, and Michael M. Messenger showed up to buy ground beef, stuffing, holiday odds and ends, and a roasting pan for Thanksgiving turkey.

"I spent $38 on groceries at Basics. I would have paid about $45 for the same stuff somewhere else," said Mr. Messenger, who said he will continue, nevertheless, to buy his seafood at the Cross Street Market. "This is long overdue. We've needed something like this around here for a long time."

Developed by Klein Enterprises of Pikesville, the shopping center was planned in 1988 on land off the corner of Fort Avenue and Lawrence Street formerly owned by the Buck Glass Company. Negotiations between the developer and community groups -- talks that pivoted on traffic patterns and the type of stores the center would contain -- continued for the next two years.

"We agreed not to put in certain things in here, like a liquor store or a tavern or a gas station," said Michael F. Klein, who developed the project with his 72-year-old father, Philip.

"The neighborhood's first priority was a full-service food market. I think [America] is going to have a tough row to hoe in the next two or three years, and in this economy, we're very pleased to be 80 percent leased. This shopping center has created 400 new jobs, and we've made an effort to hire from the neighborhood."

Also, Klein Enterprises has promised to give $10,000 a year to the Coalition of Peninsula Organizations, the umbrella group representing several South Baltimore neighborhoods. The first installment is scheduled to go to local recreation centers.

"This is a home-grown company. Dad started out selling homes during the Depression," said Mr. Klein. "We live [in the Baltimore area]. We just can't come in and slap up a development regardless of the consequences."

The consequences of a new McDonald's across the street from a family diner that has served up pork chops and homemade soups for a half-century don't frighten Vincent Rallo. He welcomes the new shopping center.

"Our business will benefit from the increase in traffic," said Mr. Rallo, the proprietor of Rallo's on Fort Avenue, opened by his late father, Louis. "I accept the shopping center as something positive, regardless of McDonald's."

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