Larger store to replace Harper's Choice Valu Food Rouse plans to raze old supermarket in troubled village center

March 21, 1996|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

The Rouse Co. plans to demolish the former Valu Food building in Harper's Choice to make room for a larger supermarket that could bring new vitality to the struggling village center, an official said yesterday.

Gerald E. Brock, senior development director at Rouse, said negotiations are being held with a supermarket chain that would operate the new store, which would contain at least 50,000 square feet of space, almost twice the size of the Valu Food store.

The larger store would be about the size of the Giant supermarkets in the village centers in Hickory Ridge and Dorsey's Search.

Rouse would not say what chain is involved in the discussions, but Mr. Brock said that if talks continue to prog- ress, he expects to make an announcement within 60 days.

"Subject to their corporate approval and subject to our corporate approval, we're planning to move forward on a business plan for the site," he said.

Officials at Oakland, Calif.-based Safeway Stores Inc., which has been rumored to be interested in the site, refused to comment on whether it is negotiating with Rouse.

Some merchants said they have heard that Weis Markets might be moving to the site, but officials at the Pennsylvania-based chain say they are not negotiating with Rouse.

The new store could open in the summer of 1997, Mr. Brock said.

Hope Sachwald, the village's representative on the Columbia Council, said she hoped the new store would reverse the perception that the center is unsafe.

"I couldn't be more excited," Ms. Sachwald said. "What we had was just not working, and I think it could have gotten worse."

She said some residents complain of the inconvenience of having to wait more than a year for a new store but that most will be satisfied with the result. "As one person told me, you've got to go through labor before you can get the baby," she said.

The village center had struggled with image problems and vacancies even before Valu Food closed.

In recent years, it has lost a Subway Sandwiches store, a High's Dairy store and a Little Caesar's Pizza. Merchants complained that area residents were avoiding the center because of security concerns. Vandals painted swastikas on its walls last year, and pay phones were removed to discourage loitering.

Rouse officials say they plan to revitalize the 24-year-old village center, where a Dunkin' Donuts, a Papa John's Pizza and a Gringada Mexican restaurant and pub have opened recently.

Mr. Brock outlined plans for the new grocery store at a meeting of the Harper's Choice Village Board Tuesday. He said construction of the new store would require officials to move the McDonald's restaurant there and said he was discussing options with owners of the fast-food franchise.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brock said, officials are seeking a short-term arrangement with a vendor to operate a miniconvenience store at the former Subway site that would sell staples such as milk and bread until the new store opened.

Pub Date: 3/21/96

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