Megaplex in metropolis Northwood: Proposed cinema near Morgan State University would help under-served city retail market.

May 02, 1998

FOR A CITY its size, Baltimore is woefully under-served in many retail areas. Years ago, department stores followed the middle-class flight to the suburbs. The disappearance of neighborhood variety shops, from Woolworth's to Epstein's, has further aggravated the situation. Good hardware stores are increasingly difficult to come by. And there is a shortage of comprehensive bookstores. Is the city turning the corner, though?

Perhaps. New retail space soon to open at the Inner Harbor's Power Plant and at Canton's American Can complex will give city shoppers two big bookstores and other new shops.

The number of movie theaters in the city could more than double to 30 if announced expansion plans materialize. The most ambitious is a proposal to construct a 12-screen megaplex at the Northwood shopping center near Morgan State University in Northeast Baltimore.

So-called megaplexes, with stadium seating and convenient parking, have been the rage of the suburbs in the past year. But investors from Chicago have now targeted Baltimore as an untapped market. They propose building 12 screens with a total of 3,000 seats above a Burlington Coat Factory store, reoccupying and expanding in space that was part of a former Hecht's department store.

With 675,000 residents, Baltimore ought to be able to support far more retail and amusement businesses than it offers. A megaplex in Northwood could strengthen the neighborhood shopping center and serve as catalyst to attract other investors in search of opportunities in under-served areas.

Pub Date: 5/02/98

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