Expansion, face-lift for Columbia mall New look: A Nordstrom department store is the centerpiece of the Rouse Co.'s $70 million plan to expand and renovate The Mall in Columbia.

December 18, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

The Rouse Co. will undertake a $70 million expansion and renovation of The Mall in Columbia that by the year 2000 will add a Nordstrom department store, parking and a series of smaller shops, the company confirmed yesterday.

As part of the renovation, aimed at making the 25-year-old mall a showcase of its retail projects nationwide, the Columbia-based real estate concern also plans to install new lighting, flooring, elevators and escalators; add restaurants; and expand restroom facilities.

In the process, Rouse's rejuvenation will nearly double the amount of its original investment in the 938,000-square-foot shopping mall.

"We'll be reinventing The Mall in Columbia from top to bottom," said Anthony W. Deering, Rouse's president and chief executive. "By the time we're finished, we think Columbia will become long- term the dominant retail center in the region. Its future is unparalleled."

The centerpiece of the effort will be a two-level, 170,000-square-foot Nordstrom Inc. department store, the Seattle-based retailer's third in the Baltimore area and only one of a dozen scheduled to open around the turn of the century.

Landing Nordstrom, a chain with 83 stores in 17 states and 1995 sales of $4.1 billion, caps a seven-year effort by Rouse, whose malls in Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta and Salem, Ore., include Nordstrom stores. Regionally, Nordstrom operates stores in Towson and Annapolis.

"For years, we've been hearing that Nordstrom is coming, Nordstrom is coming," said Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "Now, they're really coming, and what they'll bring to the local economy is unbelievable. They'll bring a lot more shoppers to Columbia, and jobs."

In Columbia, where it will hire roughly 350 people, Nordstrom will join Sears, Hecht's and J. C. Penney as anchor department stores.

"We've found that it works to our advantage to be in a mall with a mix of retail offerings and solid competition," said Brooke White, a Nordstrom spokeswoman.

Based on past store openings, the addition of Nordstrom also is likely to boost the performance of virtually every one of The Mall in Columbia's 190 stores, which currently generate average sales per square foot in excess of $300.

Jerome D. Smalley, a Rouse senior vice president and its director of commercial and office development, said the company expected that Nordstrom will have "a material impact" on the mall's revenue, although he declined to provide detailed projections.

Nordstrom has succeeded because its stores typically have abundant inventory and because of the 95-year-old chain's extraordinary reputation for customer service, analysts said.

Boosting sales at Columbia would benefit Rouse as well, since at least a portion of its rental income is derived from tenants' receipts. Unlike most stores in the mall, though, Nordstrom will build and own its store in Columbia, and Rouse will provide a portion of the capital for construction.

Deering declined to reveal how much Rouse would contribute to Nordstrom, whose stores usually cost more than $20 million to develop.

"They have a tendency, because of their national reputation, to draw a great deal of traffic to any mall they go into," said Les Childress, president of Childress Investment Research, a Seattle-based firm that tracks Nordstrom. "And because they're a strong draw, other stores benefit."

Rouse also plans to add 50,000 square feet of smaller, specialty stores connecting the new department store to the mall and a three-level parking deck. The new parking will add 800 spaces.

"This is a big day in the life of The Mall in Columbia," said Jeffrey G. Sneddon, the mall's manager. "What a great Christmas present."

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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