Road to riches Route 100: Link from the BWI area to Columbia whets the appetite of regional retailers.

November 01, 1997

IS A POTOMAC MILLS-SIZED regional shopping mall in the cards for a 1,000-acre site just south of Baltimore-Washington International Airport? Perhaps. But the mere fact that the Mills Corp., the Virginia-based developer of some of the world's largest discount malls, is exploring the possibility underscores the economic importance of Route 100.

When that connector road is completed in another year, it will link the airport and business zone to Columbia and provide motorists easy access to such main arteries as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Interstate 95.

The Mills Corp. has not discussed what kind of regional mall it might put at the site, which straddles Routes 100 and 176 just east of the B-W Parkway. But if the company's other recent projects are an indication, the mall would combine entertainment with destination shopping. The company's existing malls have up to 20 anchor stores and more than 200 speciality retailers, plus attractions like Planet Hollywood. A mall built by Mills Corp. last year near Los Angeles is expected to attract some 15 million visitors in its first year of operation.

Route 100, which has opened in stages, will accelerate the development of an area which just a few decades ago was largely rural in spite of its prime location between Baltimore and Washington. It is already spurring varied regional economic activity in a corridor that until now has been known mostly for office and business parks and warehousing.

New hotels, speculative office buildings and restaurants have gone up. Regional entertainment complexes also are on the drawing board. An example is a 20-screen movie theater, with seats for roughly 5,000 patrons that Loews hopes to build in Elkridge.

"This is what people have waited for for 35 years. This really opens up the whole airport area," says one development official. Adds another, "It's what real estate is all about -- location, location, location."

More than three decades ago, when Route 100 first became a gleam in planners' eyes, they referred to it as Metropolitan Parkway or Suburban Boulevard. Growth was just taking off. Now that the road is near completion, Route 100 does not evoke sylvan vistas. It will be the busy connector road for one of the hottest growth areas in Maryland.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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