Security Square Mall getting a new look and a new life Recent purchaser saw need for excitement to realize potential

January 14, 1998|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Less than a year after buying Security Square mall, its owners have begun breathing new life into an aging center struggling to compete with newer, more upscale malls in the region.

Capitol Investment Associates, a Chevy Chase-based owner of retail and residential properties, hopes to remake the 25-year-old mall in appearance and image, starting with $2 million in renovations.

The mall will soon get a redesigned food court centered around a huge jukebox, along with remodeled restrooms, additional signage and a fresher overall look. Already, it can boast new landscaping and a state-of-the-art security system; more than two dozen interior and exterior cameras monitor the property 24 hours a day.

Managers of the 1 million-square-foot mall in western Baltimore County hope to lure a national restaurant chain this year, and they expect to have leases signed for up to eight new stores within two months.

For Capitol Investment, which owns strip shopping centers in the Washington metropolitan area and in Florida, and apartments throughout the country, mall ownership is a first.

But Security Square did fit the profile of retail centers the firm looks to buy, those with solid potential that need some help.

In the mall's favor were four strong anchors, Hecht Co., J. C. Penney Co., Montgomery Ward & Co. and Sears Roebuck & Co., said Bruce D. Lyons, president of Capitol Real Estate Services Inc., the management arm of Capitol Investment. But he said the mall lacked the excitement of more current retail projects that blend entertainment and shopping.

"Security Square was a very nice, very plain vanilla kind of place that needed to go somewhere," Lyons said.

Over the years, Security Square has faced competition from newer malls such as Owings Mills Town Center, and from the mass discount centers that have become popular among bargain hunters. Even a renovation in the mid-1980s did little to recapture shoppers' interest.

When it bought Security Square in May from Chicago-based JMB Institutional Realty Corp., Capitol Investment noted that mall visibility had deteriorated over the years as trees along the Beltway hid it from view and few signs directed shoppers there. The owners set about remedying that, erecting a sign along Interstate 70 and others closer to the mall. They plan to place one along Interstate 695.

Renovations began with the security system, which was completed in October. Then came banners in the parking lot, more trees and automatic doors at the mall entrance.

"A lot of it is simply to give the customers a sense of ease and greater convenience when using the mall," said Deirdre Moore, Security Square's vice president and general manager.

Work on the food court is scheduled to be completed by early April. The jukebox at the center of the design will play 200 compact discs in the food court and throughout the mall.

New retailers, who will occupy up to 50,000 square feet total, likely will include a sportswear store, a music store and retailers specializing in children's apparel, women's plus sizes and men's PTC apparel, Moore said.

Another 62,000 square feet of space became vacant when F. W. Woolworth closed its store in November.

"That location is a strong opportunity to remerchandise and reposition the center with a large-space user," Moore said. "We see it as an opportunity."

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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