Harundale Mall's next life Retailing's changes: Pioneer in Glen Burnie struggles to keep up with the new generation.

April 03, 1997

HARUNDALE MALL is on life support, and one of these days the Rouse Co. will pull the plug. The reassignment of mall personnel to other Rouse properties and the notification of the remaining tenants that they will have month-to-month leases beginning July 2 are indications that that time may be quickly approaching.

Since Oct. 1, 1958, when Harundale opened, retailing has seen tremendous changes. When the late James Rouse built the mall, it was the first to be enclosed east of the Mississippi.

It was, The Sun gushed at the time, "an entirely new concept in retail merchandising, intended to provide the suburban shopper with the maximum of convenience and service in attractive surroundings conducive to relaxation."

Over the years, Harundale has been overshadowed by newer malls such as nearby Marley Station -- with three times the number of stores and flashier surroundings. Moreover, Anne Arundel, like most metropolitan counties, has been blanketed by discount retailers, "category killers" and mega-stores that are providing game competition for the malls.

Indeed, more than half the nation's 1,800 enclosed malls are 20 years or older. To survive, this older generation of shopping complexes must reinvent itself. Tollgate in Bel Air and Eastpoint in eastern Baltimore County are among those that have been successfully remade; Parole Plaza outside Annapolis hopes to undergo a similar transformation. Some, like Towson Town Center in the Baltimore County seat, are recast for high-end shoppers with exclusive stores. Others, like Westview Mall in Catonsville, target a bargain niche.

Just as Harundale was largely responsible for the decline of Glen Burnie's traditional business district, the deterioration of Harundale has depressed the surrounding neighborhood. The Rouse Co. has been searching for a buyer, but no one seems interested in continuing to run Harundale as a mall. The land is more valuable than the building. In California, some developers have realized the best way to make an out-of-date mall profitable is to level it.

With its lush vegetation and tropical birds in cages, Harundale wowed customers with its ability to master the elements. Unfortunately for its sake, it had no power to control the harsh and stormy retail climate outside its doors.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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