Route 140 is 'hot' with retailers Target, Red Lobster lead charge into business corridor

'I guess we've been found'

Property prices rise as many seek scarce acreage

January 12, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

If the planned opening of a Target discount department store in July doesn't spark a commercial boom in the Route 140 business corridor, it might be because the boom has already started.

One authority on local commercial real estate said the businesses chasing sites along Route 140 outnumber the sites available. Another says that Target might lure a few smaller businesses nearby to take advantage of the traffic it will generate, but that it is unlikely to spark a new surge in commercial development.

In addition to Target, Florida-based Darden Restaurants Inc. plans to open one of its Red Lobster chain restaurants at Route 140 and Gorsuch Road, and the owners of Ruby Tuesday restaurants are negotiating with Dayton Hudson Corp., which owns Target, for a site at Route 140 and Malcolm Drive.

A real estate representative marketing a 1-acre site at Cranberry Square Shopping Center said he has fielded queries from national retailers.

"I guess we've been found," said Thomas K. Ferguson, president of Carroll County Bank and Trust Co. and chairman of the board of Greater Westminster Development Corp. Population growth in Carroll County, particularly in Westminster, has made the area attractive, he said.

"Certainly, Route 140 is hot real estate right now. I think in the space between [Route] 97 south and [Route] 97 north, there's not a whole lot of land available," Mr. Ferguson said.

Carroll County Bank owns one of the largest pieces of open land fronting on Route 140 between the Route 97 intersections, 5 acres at Englar Road adjacent to a busy branch of the bank. But Mr. Ferguson said the bank isn't interested in marketing the property.

Michael L. Mason, Carroll office manager for O'Conor Piper & Flynn Realtors, said businesses are competing for sites along Route 140.

"One of the discouraging effects is that prices have gotten so high. Local business people don't have the resources that national firms do, so local business people can't locate there now unless it's a rental situation," Mr. Mason said.

Westminster seems to be developing L-shaped shopping strips, said. One developed north of Route 140 along Englar Road with the construction of Lowe's and Wal-Mart stores, for instance.

Land east of Clifton Boulevard is zoned for industrial use, which means that an exception is required to put a business there. If that land becomes available for commercial development, Mr. Mason predicted, it would attract large stores that want to be in a major shopping strip.

A similar development pattern seems to have begun along Malcolm Drive north of the Route 140 intersection, Mr. Mason said. Target Stores plans to sell two 1-acre properties fronting on Route 140.

In July, the Minneapolis-based retailer hopes to open a discount store on the west side of Malcolm Drive behind the two properties fronting on Route 140.

The Westminster Target will be "a typical, traditional Target store," said Carolyn Brookter, a company spokeswoman. At 116,000 square feet, the store will be about midway between Target's smallest stores, 90,000 square feet, and its largest, 125,000 square feet.

Ms. Brookter said the 13 stores Target plans to open in Maryland this year will range from 116,000 to 125,000 square feet.

Dayton Hudson is asking $1 million for one of its two properties fronting on Route 140, a figure that gives pause to the owners of Ruby Tuesday.

"We're still evaluating it. It's a case of still being concerned about the economics of the deal. That's a very expensive piece of property," said John Carmichael, regional director of real estate for Morrison Restaurants, which owns Ruby Tuesday.

Target paid $3.2 million for its 13-acre tract.

The potential extension of commercial development along Malcolm Drive depends partly on how much additional acreage the Church of the Open Door wants to sell. The church owns about 80 acres north of Weis Market to Gorsuch Road and north of the church and neighboring properties on Route 140 to Gorsuch Road.

The church "is always being called" by prospective buyers but is not eager to sell, said Bob Roche, a deacon on the church council and chairman of its land-acquisition committee. He said the church wants to reserve property for its use. Church leaders hope to build a college on the site.

Bernard F. Semon, who owns a Towson-based real estate sales company and is involved in commercial real estate sales in Carroll County, said he sees Route 140 around Westminster as "filled out quite a bit" and doesn't expect Target to generate any boom other than interest in the two 1-acre sites along Route 140 adjoining the store.

J. Richard Uhlig, senior vice president of Constellation Real Estate, which is marketing the vacant 1-acre property at Cranberry Square Shopping Center, said the center is looking for specific kinds of business to anchor the end of the center.

It could be a clothing retailer such as Ross, T. J. Maxx or Marshall's, Mr. Uhlig said. He said the center's owners also would be interested in a large sporting goods store or an electronics retailer, but that they don't want to subdivide the lot for smaller businesses.

Dayton Hudson will extend lanes and make other improvements to ease traffic congestion associated with the Target store. But planners and public officials say commercial growth will intensify the need for a Westminster bypass.

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