Suburb gets a Main Street Stroll: Work begins on the Avenue, a $35 million attempt to create a Main Street of shops and restaurants next to the White Marsh Mall.

November 22, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

A White Marsh real estate developer, hoping to strike a chord with America's past, began work yesterday on a new $35 million shopping and entertainment project that will be reminiscent of a small town's Main Street.

Nottingham Properties Inc.'s plan for its Avenue at White Marsh in the northeast section of Baltimore County centers on tapping into a sense of nostalgia. But the project's stores are all 1990s.

The 34-acre project will feature a 16-screen, 3,800-seat Loews Theatre; a Barnes & Noble Superstore; an Old Navy Clothing Co. store; three restaurants; a microbrewery, and small shops and ,, sidewalk cafes. The complex is expected to generate 1,000 permanent jobs and $6 million in annual tax revenues.

"This will become the heart and soul of White Marsh," predicted P. Douglas Dollenberg, Nottingham's president. "This will be a place for people."

Tenants have committed to roughly 45 percent of the 300,000-square-foot Avenue project, said J. Joseph Credit, a Nottingham senior vice president. Financing will be provided by Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co., a longtime Nottingham lender. The project is slated for completion next fall.

Nottingham anticipates that the outdoor-oriented Avenue will draw roughly 5 million people a year, although officials declined to provide projected sales figures.

White Marsh, a 2,000-acre planned development, currently contains 3,000 residences, with another 1,500 planned by the end of the decade. More than 175,000 people live within a 5-mile radius of White Marsh, based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The company first revealed plans for the Avenue two years ago in response to growing interest from consumers in blending shopping with entertainment.

"Because most post-World War II development wasn't conducive walking, didn't include sidewalks and required you to drive everywhere, people are now realizing that perhaps something was lost," said Rob Stuart, a spokesman for Compass Retail, an Atlanta-based retail project manager that is a subsidiary of Equitable Real Estate Investment Management Inc., a major shopping center owner.

"People are wondering now if maybe the suburbs aren't everything they were cracked up to be," Stuart said.

Several companies -- including Walt Disney Co. -- have already debuted so-called "Main Street" shopping projects in Florida, New Jersey and California.

"We see that there's a real movement back to Main Street settings," said Ron Kaplan, a vice president of Federal Realty Co., a Rockville-based shopping center company that owns 35 Main Street-type retail projects valued at $135 million. "They offer a unique sense of place, rather than the sameness of a regional mall."

The Avenue will be adjacent to White Marsh Mall, a phenomenon that could lead to competition between the two centers. However, officials of both Nottingham and the Rouse Co., which owns the 1.4 million-square-foot mall, said the Avenue should complement the mall, rather than detract from it.

"This gives us an opportunity to promote the whole town center, not just its individual pieces," said Conrad "Mac" McClung, manager of White Marsh Mall. "We think the Avenue will draw more people in and give us something really unique in the Baltimore area."

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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