Retail center expected to boost Charles/North area

October 02, 1997|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

After more than a decade, the wait is nearly over for a shopping center in the Charles/North community.

The $3 million Midtown Marketplace -- a scaled-down version of a development first proposed in 1987 -- is scheduled to open this year at 21st Street and Maryland Avenue, creating 50 to 60 permanent jobs and generating up to $40,000 in annual property taxes, according to Michael Klein of Klein Enterprises, one of the developers.

The shopping center will be home to a supermarket, auto parts store, coin-operated laundry, beauty salon and carryout restaurant, the remnants of plans made long ago to revitalize the area.

"There's a relief that the site is finally being developed after waiting 10 years and not knowing what was going to happen," said the Rev. Dale Dusman, pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church and president of the Charles/North Association. "The general consensus is something is happening, and we're glad it's happening."

Save-a-Lot, a supermarket based in St. Louis, will be the main occupant of the minimall. A 45,000-square-foot Safeway opened in April several blocks away at 25th and Charles streets.

Zack Germroth, spokesman for the housing department, said the project should spur economic activity in the community.

Germroth said the development group, the community and the city discussed details of the project during the past two years before building began in July.

"We worked real close with community groups on a mix of retail geared to the community's shopping needs, so we feel like we have a real winner," Germroth said. "It's certainly a catalyst for economic development and a focus for more activity."

Dominic Wiker, economic development coordinator with the Charles Village Benefits District, which includes the shopping center, said the minimall is needed in an area that has been foundering.

"It will help to stabilize the southern end of the district," Wiker said. "There hasn't been a lot of development there, and it will be a welcome addition in terms of retail."

In March 1987, community members were presented with plans for a 165,000-square-foot shopping center, more than four times the size of the 38,000-square-foot development that is being built.

"It was supposed to be a big shopping center taking in more land, having an entrance off North Avenue, where the North Avenue Motel is now," Dusman said.

A developer who had rights to develop the site backed out in 1995 after Safeway decided to build a store nearby.

Later that year, Klein and two other developers, Theo Rodgers of A&R Development Corp. and Steve Sibel of SJS Development, stepped in and won the right to develop the property, bought from the city for $271,665.

"It was kicking around for a while, and we had dropped out of the picture," Klein said. "We returned when we saw that not much had happened with the site."

Safeway's success has created doubts about Save-a-Lot's ability to compete. Though happy to see a new economic presence in the area, Dusman warned that residents don't have to look far to find failed shopping centers.

"It will be a nice little site, but I have concerns because we have a number of underutilized shopping centers around the city," Dusman said.

But Klein said that Save-a-Lot will have a different appeal. Whereas Safeway is more of a comprehensive supermarket, he said, Save-a-Lot offers customers discounted items in bulk.

Klein estimated that within a three-mile radius of the Charles Village Safeway, about 250,000 people are served by only a handful of supermarkets.

"Baltimore City -- like every major city, is underserved in relation to the suburbs in terms of the number of grocery stores," Klein said.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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