Caldor considers store at Mount Clare City retail center would be reconfigured

June 10, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Caldor Corp., a major regional discount department stor chain, is considering opening a new store as part of a dramatic reconstruction of the Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center at Pratt and Carey streets.

If the plan is realized, the move would be in marked contrast to the decades-long trend of large department stores leaving Baltimore for suburban shopping complexes. The development

requires approval by various city agencies as well as by the Baltimore City Council.

The proposal, slated to cost between $7 million and $8 million,would include the demolition of the center's entire "marketplace" area fronting Pratt Street, and buildings that house an F.W. Woolworth store and a Signet Bank branch.

In its place would be built a 115,000-square-foot building that would run parallel to Carey Street and open up a Pratt Street entrance to the center's parking lot. Caldor would occupy about 100,000 square feet.

Caldor "has a long-standing reputation of going into stable urban environments and opening stores there," said John S. Krauser, a development director with the Rubin Organization, the Philadelphia real estate company that developed the new plan. Caldor has a half-dozen stores in the Baltimore area.

While Caldor has not made a binding commitment to the project, the Norwalk Conn.-based department store chain has expressed interest, and discussions are under way, he said.

"We are very early in the process," Mr. Krauser told about 20 community leaders and city officials last night at a meeting where the proposal was explained.

The Rubin Organization was asked to develop the plan for the troubled center by the General Electric Capital Corp., the lender that financed the construction of the complex, which is owned by P-M Baltimore Ltd., of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mr. Krauser said the project would be privately financed, but he declined to identify the financing sources, saying talks were still in progress.

One of the main goals of the center's reconfiguration would be to eliminate the long brick wall that now runs parallel to Pratt Street, giving the complex a "fortress" character, he said.

"We're turning this center around physically with a major entrance on Pratt Street, rather than Carey," Mr. Krauser. However, there would still be an entrance on the Carey Street side, he said.

Besides the Caldor store, the new building would also house the existing Woolworth store. He said talks were being held with Signet about relocating the bank branch to another part of the center.

If the Baltimore City Council approves enabling legislation later this year, construction could begin next year and be completed by the end of the year, Mr. Krauser said.

He estimated that the new department store could create an additional 200 jobs, as well as an additional 50 jobs at other stores that might be attracted to the revamped center.

The reaction of community representatives was generally favorable last night.

"I like the plan very much," said Helene D. McCrea, a board member of the Southwest Community Council.

The migration of Caldor into the city comes in contrast to the loss over the years of such major stores as Hecht's, Hutzler's, Steuart's, Sears and Hamburgers in the city.

Caldor's arrival could also prove a boon for the Mount Clare center.

When it was opened, a unique feature of the center was a steam locomotive parked in the center's enclosed food court -- a link with the site's past as a railroad repair shop.

But under pressure from merchants, the engine was removed because it blocked the view across the court, according to Marian Frieson, the center's manager.

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