German clothing retailer to move to Grumman site Glen Arm residents consulted about decision

October 14, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Ulla Popken's moving to Glen Arm, and the neighbors are pleased.

Popken -- a German retailer of large-size clothing for women -- plans to move from cramped quarters in Hunt Valley to an empty, former Grumman aircraft manufacturing warehouse on a 35-acre site on Glen Arm Road.

Area residents, who last year blocked a Baltimore County government plan to buy the building for use as a 182,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility, say they have no objection to Popken's presence -- only a concern about future use of the adjacent land.

Grumman was asking $2.7 million for the building and 35 acres -- 9 acres zoned for industrial use, and the remainder for rural conservation or farm use.

"We're very worried about the 9 acres," said Charlotte Pine, president of the Long Green Valley Association, "because that could be sold off and other structures put in. We just want it kept rural."

Community representatives say they would like the company to sell development rights to the land and to preserve it.

Popken's president, 30-year-old Thomas Schneider, said he has no immediate plans for the land, but wants to hold open the possibility of using it later.

"We really feel as a community that this business is as compatible as anything," said Katherine Gabriel, vice president of the Long Green Valley Association.

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat who represents the area, called Popken "a very good neighbor" and noted that Schneider is looking to buy a home and settle in the Long Green-Glen Arm area. "I love the area," Schneider said.

Popken operates 230 retail stores in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, Schneider said, adding that he hopes to make the Grumman facility "my American headquarters" for a growing mail-order distribution business. He figures it will take three to five years for the company to expand into the entire building.

Gabriel said community groups invited to a briefing by company officials were pleased at being approached before the move became public knowledge. "We were brought in at the beginning of this."

Last year, the county bought one of the two large buildings at the site from Northrop Grumman Corp. as a new home for Public Works and Fire Department shops and equipment repairs. The first tenant -- the Public Works Department's Building Services Division -- is moving to Glen Arm this week.

But the county's plan to buy and convert the other building as an indoor athletic facility with as many as seven soccer fields drew strong community opposition based on fears of heavy "soccer mom" traffic along largely rural Glen Arm road.

Ulla Popken, named for Schneider's mother-in-law in Germany, was founded by the Popken family. The American branch employs 22 people, he said, including five who work at its only U.S. store in Towson Town Center. He plans to open a store in Philadelphia in March, and eventually employ up to 100 workers.

Schneider told representatives of Long Green Valley and the Glen Arm Community Association that he expects only one truck delivery to the building per week initially, though smaller vehicles will pick up orders for mailing more frequently.

Until the business grows enough to fill the warehouse, he may lease some of the space to another firm.

G. Scott Barhight, Schneider's attorney, said no settlement date on the purchase from Grumman has been set, although Popken would like to close the deal "as quickly as possible."

No rezoning is needed for Popken. "All we need is a use and occupancy permit," Barhight said.

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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