Rosenberg clan goes full circle downtown Children return to city to revitalize minimall developed by their father

December 23, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

After decades away from Westminster, the children of Herman M. Rosenberg recently reacquired half of downtown's Locust Lane Mall -- returning full circle to revitalize some of the property he developed.

"We grew up in Westminster, and it's interesting that we got the property back after all these years," said the eldest son, David S. Rosenberg, 48, of Ashton in Montgomery County. The family moved from its Willis Street home when he was 9.

"My father and mother invested in the growth and future of Westminster," working with other business leaders and city officials, he said.

"We really didn't even go back to Westminster for 20 or 30 years, and suddenly we've reacquired the buildings and are getting involved."

Last week, he and brother Joel Rosenberg approached city officials, looking for ideas to improve the property on the southeast side of the wide brick pedestrian lane between Main Street and the city's main parking lots.

In a grassy square along that walkway lies a small marker dedicated to their father, who developed the lane. He died in 1986.

"Now, we have the opportunity to do something here again, to enhance what downtown is all about, to make this a very significant project," said Joel Rosenberg, 47, of Fulton in Howard County.

Their grandfather, Solomon Morris Rosenberg, founded the Hub clothing stores, which expanded into several counties and seven stores, during the 1920s and 1930s. The children used to work after school at what was then known as the Hub Building in the first block of E. Main St.

Their father later built Carroll Plaza and moved the Hub there.

"He was very quick to recognize that Route 140 was going to be developed for shopping centers and dramatically change the environment of downtown Westminster," David Rosenberg said of his father. "He realized the action was going to be out on the pike."

But his father continued to improve the several downtown properties he owned during the 1970s, including the buildings on both sides of Locust Lane.

"He wouldn't leave downtown high and dry," David Rosenberg said. "He worked with the city to create a minimall downtown, to revitalize downtown. The city agreed to put in the brick walks -- it was really just an alley then.

"It was kind of new when it happened, but now it's time for a face lift."

It has taken almost 40 years for the return of this generation, which includes brother Michael and sister Roseanne Schwartz, both of Silver Spring.

In the interim, David and Joel Rosenberg say, they ran the Cedar Post clothing stores near Washington. In 1988, they began Candy Express Franchising Inc., a Columbia-based chain of pick-and-mix candy stores that has 38 outlets throughout the United States and stores in 19 foreign countries.

Their involvement with Locust Lane seemed to have ended when their mother, Lillian, sold the property just before her death in 1992, said David Rosenberg, chief executive of Candy Express.

But after a recent mortgage default and foreclosure, and no buyer, the four Rosenberg children decided to run the Locust Lane property themselves.

They reacquired the buildings last month.

"We want to do something special. We feel we're sitting on the 50-yard line, right smack dab in the middle of Westminster," David Rosenberg told members of Westminster Town Center Corp. last week. He and Joel Rosenberg attended a meeting of the nonprofit group to introduce themselves and seek ideas for the property.

They're intrigued by a suggestion for a microbrewery with a plant, pub, restaurant and shops, said David Rosenberg.

"It seems a microbrewery could create tourists, with restaurants and pubs, little clothing shops and specialty stores," he said.

Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works, agreed. "The Rosenbergs paid a courtesy call, and we suggested a microbrewery and gave them some contacts."

Noting the new restaurants that have opened recently downtown, Beyard said: "I think the more restaurants the better, like Little Italy."

The city has long-term plans for a parking structure in the lots behind Main Street, he said. "That will make it even more of a pedestrian corridor to downtown."

The buildings have a capacity of from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet, and could be built up to six floors and 60,000 square feet to suit a user such as a microbrewery.

Accommodation will be made for existing tenants, including the two restaurants there, David Rosenberg said.

Pub Date: 12/23/96

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