BJ's Wholesale, Hechinger expect Snowden Square opening in spring Warehouse outlets are key to project EAST COLUMBIA

November 19, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

BJ's Wholesale Club and Hechinger Home Project Center -- linchpins of the developing Snowden Square center -- will probably receive building permits within 45 days and open in spring 1993, according to The Rouse Co.

Jerry Brock, senior development director for Rouse, outlined the developments on the retail and warehouse project for the Owen Brown village board Tuesday night. The center is being developed on 65 acres south of Snowden River Parkway, the site of the former General Electric Appliance Park. GE, which opened the park in 1970, has since closed some of its operation and moved the rest.

Mr. Brock referred to the retail part of the project as a "power center," with large, warehouse-style retail outlets that sell products in bulk.

This will be a different type of commercial attraction for Columbia, he said.

"A lot of shopping trips have been leaving Columbia for this type of use. Hopefully we can capture that," he said.

BJ's, a Massachusetts-based chain that sells everything from fresh meat to auto supplies at whole sale prices, and the Hechinger store will be housed in buildings of between 100,000 and 125,000 square feet, Mr. Brock said. The site plan calls for either two or three other large retail outlets, which will be between BJ's and Hechinger and about half the size. No small retail stores are planned.

Four other sites, to be built near the main center, also are planned. The Rouse Co. is searching for restaurants, banks or free-standing retail establishments to occupy the spaces, but has not reached any agreements yet, Mr. Brock said. The company does have a contract with Crown Central Petroleum Corp., which plans to open a gas station, car wash and small convenience store at the center.

Hechinger is moving from a smaller store at Dobbin Center in Owen Brown. Since Hechinger has a long-term lease for that building, it will be responsible for finding a new tenant. The Rouse Co. owns Dobbin Center.

Mr. Brock said The Rouse Co. hopes to have parking lots paved for Hechinger and BJ's before winter weather makes construction difficult. He said he anticipates a spring opening if both stores begin construction on their buildings in December.

The Rouse Co. hasn't found tenants for the undeveloped warehouse area, which will be behind the retail center.

Snowden Square Drive, a new public road built for the center, will have a traffic light to control traffic entering and exiting Snowden River Parkway. Robert Fulton Drive will be extended, but won't need a traffic light because a ramp interchange already exists.

BJ's opened its second Baltimore-area store yesterday in Pasadena. The company, which requires shoppers to pay a $25 annual fee to become members, opened a store in White Marsh earlier this year, and has plans for another one in Owings Mills, said Susan Grieb, public relations manager.

The chain, which started in Medford, Mass., in 1984, has 39 clubs from Maine to Florida.

"We select sites based on a good track record and demographics," Ms. Grieb said. "We look for locations with a lot of small businesses, dense populations and good accessibility. Our expansion goals are to have a strong presence in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic states."

Hechinger Co. chief financial officer Clark McClelland said the home improvement firm is moving so it will have more room for a Home Project Center, which stocks a greater variety of products than other Hechinger stores.

The Dobbin Center location has served the company well, he said.

"That's an attractive space," he said. "I anticipate no difficulty finding a tenant."

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