Two developers join to revive Hutzler's site Long-vacant building will be retail center called Towson Circle

December 11, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

After months of silence about his plans, David G. Rhodes of Heritage Properties said yesterday that he has joined forces with another major developer to revive the former Hutzler's department store in Towson.

Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which also has been chosen to redevelop the Power Plant at the Inner Harbor, will be working with Heritage to transform the long-vacant white elephant at a prime Baltimore County intersection into a top retail center called Towson Circle.

Among the potential tenants: Circuit City, Gap's Old Navy Clothing, Designer Shoe Warehouse and Saks Off 5th.

"Retailers are wildly enthusiastic," developer David G. Cordish of the Hutzler's project said. "As for the site itself, it doesn't get any better as far as retail is concerned in Maryland."

Easily accessible from the Baltimore Beltway and near mega-mall Towson Town Center, the site sits on a busy corner at York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads and Allegheny Avenue in the heart of Towson.

Community members and government officials also are enthusiastic about the announcement to move forward with a plan to transform the cement-and-steel eyesore into a shopping hub. The project comes at a time when Baltimore County is pouring $4.3 million into Towson for a traffic roundabout and sidewalk beautification project.

"A lot of people just didn't think it was going to happen. There were a lot of false starts," said Wayne Skinner, executive director of the Towson Development Corp., a nonprofit community improvement association. "This project will make Towson a destination point for retail."

In another key move, the developers sold the top two floors of the 270,000-square-foot, four-level Hutzler's building to Columbia-based Storage USA for residential and commercial storage.

"It is a pivotal piece," said Rhodes, explaining the difficulty of leasing the upper floors to retail tenants.

As for the lower areas, the two powerhouse developers -- who have worked on other projects together, including Kent Plaza in Chestertown and Trappers Alley in Detroit -- are putting the finishing touches on their plan.

In addition to the stores, they are negotiating with several restaurants, including California Pizza Kitchen, which tried to locate in Towson two years ago but couldn't get a liquor license, and Phillips seafood restaurant. The site comes with one liquor license.

Cinemas may be included in the project although no theater chain has signed up, Rhodes said.

If a multiplex cinema is incorporated into the plans, it could be located on a 2-acre parcel on the north side of Joppa Road across from Hutzler's, or on top of a parking garage on Shealey Avenue behind the building.

For now, the Shealey property will remain a surface parking lot, eliminating the need for an overhead walkway that was originally planned.

Instead, a five- to six-level parking facility with space for 600 to 800 vehicles will be located on the Joppa Road site, with access to stores on both sides of the street.

To accommodate service trucks for retailers and Storage USA, Rhodes is seeking county approval to turn Delaware Avenue into a one-way street southbound from Joppa to Shealey to allow a loading lane.

"One of the major problems has been, 'How do we get service to it?' " Rhodes said. "This provides good, safe access to the building."

The developers also have worked with D. R. Brasher, a Columbia architectural firm, on a modern design for the 50-year-old drab, block building that has been vacant for eight years. A rendering shows erector-set-style arches, an expanse of windows, and hues of gray, burgundy and blue to spruce up the exterior.

The developers hope to break ground on Towson Circle, which could cost from $25 million to $40 million, in the spring.

The first phase, which includes the Hutzler's building, is expected to be completed by fall 1997.

The remaining construction would be finished in spring 1998, they said.

"I'm very excited," said Rhodes, who has been working on the redevelopment project for the past two years. "I expect it's going to happen now -- finally."

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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