Nottingham Properties Inc. intends to develop an estimated $45 million family entertainment and retail complex in White Marsh, in an attempt to re-create a Main Street-like atmosphere popular earlier this century.
Nottingham's Avenue at White Marsh, a project planned for land across from the 1.3 million-square-foot White Marsh Mall and modeled loosely on the Reston Town Center in Virginia, is expected to contain a 14-screen movie theater, six restaurants, music, video and book stores and an assortment of smaller, supporting retail shops.
"We'll be creating an urban environment in a suburban setting," said J. Joseph Credit, a vice president of Nottingham, White Marsh's master developer. "But the whole concept is family-oriented, building on the community already in White Marsh."
Nottingham anticipates construction on the 35-acre Honeygo Boulevard project will begin next August, with completion scheduled for the spring of 1996.
Although no tenants have been signed nor financing arranged for the 350,000-square-foot complex, Mr. Credit said children's educational retailers such as Zainy Brainy and The Discovery Zone have expressed interest in being included.
The developer is close to formalizing an agreement with a Sony Corp. subsidiary to operate the movie theaters, which will anchor the development.
Three office buildings containing 50,000 square feet each will eventually augment the project's retail component, to create a mix of uses. Nottingham believes demand for new space exists because its current office buildings surrounding the mall are 95 percent committed.
The concept for the Avenue at White Marsh is being modeled in part after the Reston Town Center, which blends office, residential, entertainment and retail components, and similar projects in California, Texas and Florida.
"We're appealing to people's memories with this project, when Main Street was the center of town, where people gathered to see parades, movies and other events in the past," said Thomas J. Storrs, an architect at Baltimore-based RTKL Associates Inc., the firm that is designing the Avenue and that provided designs in Virginia. "Reston is based on the same premise."
Nottingham plans to incorporate a plaza, fountains, benches and other outdoor amenities, but it acknowledges that the project may be disrupted during winter months.
"Reston works in large part because it is outdoor-oriented," said Chris Leinberger, managing director of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., a Los Angeles-based real estate consulting firm that studied Nottingham's Avenue concept. "And because people desire to mingle with others."
Mr. Leinberger added the project's primary challenge will be in appealing to a middle-income population, whereas Reston is targeted to a more upper-income market.
Nottingham's decision to proceed with the Avenue results from an overall "maturation" of the White Marsh market, proximity to the mall and continued population growth, Mr. Credit said.
White Marsh, a 2,000-tract area and one of three county-designated growth areas, contains 170,000 people within a five-mile radius, and has captured an average of 12.5 percent of all new housing built in Baltimore County since 1990, according to U.S. census figures and a study by appraisal firm Lipman, Frizzell & Mitchell, respectively. The White Marsh Mall's total market area, a calculation of potential shoppers, has more than 850,000 people, according to data compiled by The Rouse Co., the mall's owner.
"We think it would be an attractive asset, and strengthen the retail and entertainment niche there," said Cathy A. Lickteig, a Rouse vice president.
"We see this as an extension of the mall, not competition," Mr. Credit said.
The Avenue at White Marsh marks the third major Nottingham development to be announced in White Marsh this year. In July, Time Warner Inc. committed to purchasing land for a $37 million distribution center, and two months ago Nottingham confirmed plans for a $34 million, 375,000-square-foot shopping center to be occupied by discount retailers.
Nottingham in late September requested special zoning to accommodate the Avenue at White Marsh from the county's planning department. That type of request ordinarily takes six months to decide.
Wayne Feuerborn, a department planner, said the project's concept is acceptable under the area's current master plan.