Renovations give Annapolis Mall new look in time for holiday shopping Food court to open today ANNE ARUNDEL BUSINESS

November 18, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

With 13 months of disarray created by construction behind it, and the busiest shopping time of the year coming up, Annapolis Mall is sporting new stores, a new food court and a new look with the completion of the first phase of its $70 million renovation and expansion project.

"We're ready for Christmas," said Timothy Lowe, development director for St. Louis-based CenterMark Properties, the mall's owners.

To mark the occasion, breakaway bottles will be swung today against a specially constructed ship's bow in The Galley, the mall's expanded and redesigned food court.

The 600-seat food court, including 14 restaurants, represents about half of the mall's $70-million renovation project.

Renovations at the mall began in October 1992, with Hecht's department store undergoing a 40,000-square-foot remodeling and expansion to accommodate new and expanded cosmetic lines and fragrances and the addition of a men's fragrance bar.

Hecht's also has remodeled its interior and exterior and added to the men's, women's and petite clothing sections. Fitting rooms for the handicapped, along with more accessible cash register space and wider aisles, also have been added.

Twenty new stores, ranging from Stride Rite shoes to Electronic Boutique, a specialty electronic games and computer software store, have set up shop in the 13-year-old mall.

Nordstrom and 24 other stores will open in March in a new wing of the mall that is under construction.

Nordstrom and the new wing were supposed to open in August 1993. But both were delayed after Woodward & Lothrop Inc. engaged Annapolis Mall in a legal fight, arguing that the mall's expansion would lead to traffic congestion and the pollution of Weems Creek. Woodward & Lothrop has a store in Parole Plaza, one mile from the mall. The case eventually was thrown out of court.

The renovations were spurred by five years of watching nearby strip centers erode the mall's market share, Mr. Lowe said.

"Our sales weren't at the rate where we thought they should be," he said. "In order for us to be competitive, we decided to go ahead and expand the center and add Nordstrom."

The spring arrival of Maryland's third Nordstrom, plus such other stores as Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, Victoria's Secret and Banana Republic, is expected to push the mall's sales-per-square foot figure of $320 for its smaller stores to $400 per square feet, Mr. Lowe said.

Nordstrom stores draw both the serious shopper and the curious, said Tom Saquella, president of Annapolis-based Maryland Retailer Merchants Association. He predicted the mall, which already draws well from affluent Prince George's County, will draw even more people once Nordstrom and the other upscale shops open next year.

"The presence of Nordstrom will certainly enlarge the mall's market," he said.

Once the wing is completed and its tenants have moved in, Annapolis Mall will have 150 shops and more than one million square feet. The mall already has added about 1,000 parking spaces.

The mall also has added subdued lighting and arched ceilings with wood beams to accentuate its new nautical motif. "We were trying to create the feeling of being in an old boathouse," Mr. Lowe said.

Shoppers strolling past shops will also notice new, higher store fronts and 100,000 square feet of new marble tile throughout the mall. Placed end to end, the tiles would stretch more than four times the length of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Prudential Insurance Co. signed a letter of intent last week to sell its subsidiary, CenterMark, and its holdings in 19 shopping centers -- including Annapolis Mall -- to U.S. and Australian investors for $1 billion. But Mr. Lowe said operation of the mall will not change.

"There will be no effect," he said. "We [CenterMark] will still manage, operate and lease" the mall.

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