Lowe's asks for rezoning to allow superstore Building supply chain would replace existing Englar Road location

December 11, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Lowe's Cos. Inc. is asking city government to rezone a 16-acre parcel along Westminster's busy Route 140 corridor to accommodate a "superstore" that would replace its 4-year-old building supplies operation near Englar Road.

The North Carolina-based retailer filed a request last week to rezone a site behind Weis Markets, east of Malcolm Drive and north of Route 140, for business use. The property, owned by Church of the Open Door, is zoned for single-family houses on quarter-acre lots.

Rezoning approval would clear the way for Lowe's to replace its 65,000-square-foot store at 200 Clifton Blvd. with what the corporation calls a superstore, at least twice the size of the existing building.

"We haven't made any announcement" of plans to move the store, Lowe's spokeswoman Clarissa Felts said. "At this point, we don't have any property to relocate to. We do not make announcements until we have acquired or leased property."

The city planning commission has not scheduled a hearing on the rezoning request. The commission will make a recommendation to the City Council, which makes the decision.

Lowe's prospective neighbors were noncommittal about the possible impact of the building products store on their businesses. Lowe's shoppers are probably slightly different from Target shoppers, "but any store can benefit from increased traffic," said Tim Loesch, spokesman for Dayton Hudson, which owns Target discount department stores.

Lowe's opened its Westminster store, the corporation's first in the Baltimore area, in 1993. Three years later, Smith & Reifsnider, Westminster's last family-owned hardware store, closed after 133 years of operation.

Felts declined to comment on specific plans for Lowe's of Westminster but said the corporation builds superstores in areas "we feel have great opportunity and potential." Superstores come in two sizes: 130,000 square feet and 150,000 square feet. Felts said superstores stock about 40,000 items. The existing store has 25,000 to 30,000 items.

Westminster seems to have acquired the demographics that make it attractive to commercial interests, Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said. If Lowe's planned move creates a commercial building vacancy, it probably won't be vacant long, he said.

"Businesswise, this is probably the best time [for a possible vacancy] because there seems to be very strong interest in the Westminster area. We seem to be one of the sought-after hot spots commercially," Yowan said.

Nationally, Lowe's Cos. has been moving beyond its traditional rural base into metropolitan areas, where it goes head to head with the larger Home Depot chain. Home Depot has 579 stores nationwide; Lowe's, 400. Lowe's has 11 stores in Maryland, five of them superstores. A superstore represents an average $15 million investment, Felts said.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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