When R. Dixon H. Harvey Jr. speaks of the Carrolltowne Mall, his eyes gleam like those of a young man describing his first car.
The mall, purchased Monday for a reported $10 million, is the first acquisition for the newly merged partnership of Black Rock Associates and Carlisle Associates.
And Mr. Harvey, president of Black Rock, is eager to begin revitalizing the 16-year-old shopping center. The former president of the Arundel Corp., Francis X. Knott, is head of Carlisle Associates.
"This is going to be a lot of fun," said Mr. Harvey, lead manager of the mall. "We're going to have a good time and work hard."
Mr. Harvey is not new to retail development. His career began in 1980 with Baltimore Market Center Development, a quasi-public firm in the city.
From there, he was an executive with James Rouse's Enterprise Development Corp. and, later, with the Riparius Development Corp. Mr. Harvey finally started his own firm working with commercial and retail real estate properties in 1991.
"I love the retail shopping center industry," he said. "It's so dynamic and it's always changing. There are so many trends going on in retail to explore and find out what best serves the customer. It's fascinating and I love it."
His renewal plans are four-fold. In addition to $1 million worth of physical renovations, Mr. Harvey is planning an image change; a strong leasing effort to attract national, regional and local stores; and more marketing and promotional work.
"I want to work to improve how we run things," he said. "The mall is well run today, but we can always do better, communicate better between the merchants and the staff, and make things cleaner and spiffier."
Mr. Harvey's first project will be to rebuild the entrance, make signage clearer in the parking lot and brighten the corridors.
"The basic improvements will be to make it easier for customers to shop here," he said, "to make it a better environment and a more comfortable environment."
The new owner also said he wants to accentuate Carrolltowne's distinct character as an enclosed community shopping center.
"Carrolltowne is not a cookie-cutter shopping center," he said. "It's different, and because we understand why it's different we can make a couple of changes here and there and take it to its next level."
Rather than trying to compete with the Owings Mills or Cranberry malls, Mr. Harvey said he wants to serve the residents of Eldersburg.
"This is the town center of Eldersburg," Mr. Harvey said. "People come in here to sit and have a cup of coffee. There's no other place in Eldersburg to come inside and do that."
He said he and his management staff plan to continue working on better relations with the community.
Aware of the recent troubles neighbors have had with rowdy teen-agers in the mall parking lot, Mr. Harvey said security has been increased. He also plans to work on striking a balance between nearby residents and young customers.
"In the next few weeks, I will be personally talking with the community associations to see what their concerns are," he said. "But on the other side, everyone is a customer. We're not in the business of going out and arresting people.
"We need to assess the needs of kids who don't have anywhere to go. Maybe that's something we can provide here, and we're going to explore it."
Rappaport Management Co. of Vienna, Va., will continue to manage the mall, he said. But property manager Lisa Walters, a Rappaport employee, will move her offices from Virginia to Eldersburg.
Mr. Harvey said he will also have an office in the mall.
"That is definitely a positive change," he said. "I feel really great about that. The more time we all spend here, the greater it all will be."
Living 20 minutes away in northern Baltimore County makes it that much easier to spend time at the mall, Mr. Harvey said.
An avid bicyclist, he said he looks forward to pedaling his way to work this summer.
"I rode over here a lot last summer," Mr. Harvey said, describing his earlier, discreet efforts to check out the mall.
Happy as Mr. Harvey is about his new venture, mall merchants seem even more excited to have a new owner and manager.
"It can't be anything but positive, for sure," said JoAnne Ciepiela, owner of BJ's Bloomers. "He seems like a great guy, very enthusiastic and young. That's important. When you're young and vital, everything works for you."
Marcia Parkinson, owner of the clothing store Marcia's, agreed.
"I can't think of one negative thing," she said. "He intends to fill the spaces here, and that will give local residents more of a selection so they don't have to drive anywhere for what they need.
"And from what I hear, they don't want to drive."