Rouse Co. resumes talks with Valu Food

November 08, 1995|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,SUN STAFF

The Rouse Co. -- which announced earlier this year that it would replace Valu Food as anchor of the struggling Harper's Choice Village Center -- again is negotiating with the grocery store chain, said Valu Food's president.

Rouse, Columbia's developer, has yet to secure a grocery store to anchor the center, less than three months before Valu Food's lease expires.

Valu Food's president, Louis Denrich, said his store plans to leave the center if a deal is not reached by late this week because the company would need at least two months to close its operation.

"It's really up in the air. I really don't know what their intention is," said Mr. Denrich. "If I don't get a really strong feeling they're BTC really negotiating with me, I'm going to leave. We have a drop-dead date, and they're dragging their feet."

Jody Clark, a Rouse vice president who oversees Columbia's village centers for the company's leasing subsidiary, told the Harper's Choice village board in April that Baltimore-based Valu Food was leaving at lease's end.

She said Rouse was negotiating with other stores that would replace Valu Food and likely renovate and expand the space. Rouse officials confirmed that upscale Fresh Fields was one chain involved in negotiations.

But yesterday, a Rouse spokeswoman said no decision has been made on an anchor for the center and that she couldn't comment on negotiations.

Harper's Choice residents have criticized the center -- which has had several long-term vacancies and a high turnover rate -- as unsafe, poorly lighted and unattractive. They also have complained that Valu Food is too small and has poor service.

"We want a food store with better service, better cleanliness -- better than what's there now," said Heather D'Amore, village board member.

Mr. Denrich said Valu Food had planned to leave the center after Rouse proposed a rent increase about a year ago. But Rouse officials offered Valu Food another proposal recently, he said.

"We had a good laugh over it -- then we gave them our proposal," he said. "They're a lot more flexible now than a year ago."

Mr. Denrich said his company is seeking lower rent than Rouse offered and expansion of the 28,000-square-foot store to 40,000 square feet to better compete with nearby supermarkets that are twice the size the current store.

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