Neighborhood awaits Giant improvement Grocer building first city store in 20 years

June 03, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

The walls are now a dreary cinder block, but come fall, the facade of the new Giant on Edmondson Avenue -- the first the supermarket chain has built in Baltimore since 1976 -- will sport a rich, red brick.

The design of the 47,000-square-foot building going up on the site of the razed City Oldsmobile and A. D. Anderson Chevrolet is one of several aspects of the store that have residents thrilled at the transformation of the 6-acre lot.

"It was a mess; we were always having to go to court to get them to clean it up -- tall weeds and junk and rats," said Catherine Campbell, a board member of the Hunting Ridge Community Assembly.

"We wanted to see positive development but were very nervous because it's zoned for anything. We were afraid something terrible like a mega-bar would go there," said Campbell. "Our community is so nice and people work so hard to keep it that way that we didn't want to leave anything to chance."

In early 1997, the proposal was brought to the Hunting Ridge community -- bounded by Swann Avenue, Cooks Lane, West Hills Parkway and U.S. 40 -- by Leonard Weinberg, whose Vanguard Equities company owns the property.

(The project also will include a separate video store and an auto parts business.)

"Giant was the best nibble we got," said Weinberg, who leased the property to Giant for 30 years. "We're not interested in fighting neighborhoods. We only marketed [the site] to companies we thought would fit the mold. That's why it includes traditional features that aren't run-of-the-mill for Giant, like the brick."

More stores planned

Barry F. Scher, a spokesman for the store, said the last Giant constructed in the city was on Moravia Road in 1976. Since then, Scher said, the company has concentrated on Baltimore and Washington's expanding suburbs, where four more will be built this year.

The new one -- the city's fifth -- is expected to open by November and will employ about 175 people, 75 to 90 of them from the immediate neighborhood.

(Interested applicants can call Giant's employment office at 410-496-6900.)

"Giant has looked for years for inner-city locations in Washington and Baltimore, mature markets that may now be underserved," said Scher. "We can't ignore markets where there may not be adequate food and pharmacy facilities."

Community compatibility

Giant operates two stores, one on Rolling Road and one on Maiden Choice Lane, within five miles of the one under construction. A Stop, Shop & Save food store is a block away in the Edmondson Village shopping center, but the manager refused to comment on the new Giant. In the Baltimore metropolitan area, Giant is the No. 1 supermarket in sales, followed by Metro Food Markets and Super Fresh, according to Food World, a Columbia-based trade journal.

"There was a sense of relief that this was compatible with the neighborhood," said W. Edward Orser, president of the Hunting Ridge association. "We were pleased that they've been attentive to our views on traffic, noise, lighting and landscaping. And they've promised a fence behind the store, where neighbors wanted to make sure that transients wouldn't be passing through the alley or loitering."

Barbara Kean, 83, and a Hunting Ridge resident since 1965, is one of those neighbors. The new supermarket will be behind her Coleherne Road house.

Giant, she said, will be a welcome change from the abandoned car lot.

"I hated to see the village go to pieces the way it did; it was so beautiful when we moved here," she said. "But I'm sure Giant will keep their grounds clean. Usually they do."

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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