Harundale revamp nears final stages of mall demolition

Retail landmark's replacement likely to open in November

June 06, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

One of the last original sections of the old Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie is scheduled for demolition any day now, with the opening of the Harundale Plaza in its place slated for the fall.

Once the razing is complete, the Value City store will be the last standing reminder of a 40-year-old retail landmark -- the first enclosed shopping mall on the East Coast.

"We tore down close to 300,000 square feet of buildings," said Dicky C. Darrell, director of retail for Columbia-based Manekin Corp, which is spending about $20 million to convert Harundale Mall into a retail strip center.

Manekin had hoped that the revamped shopping center would have opened by now, but there were delays in obtaining county building permits.

"The sooner we can get tenants in, the sooner an income stream is started," he said. "The cost of carrying the property a little longer does have some negative impact, but it's not really worth talking about."

Rouse Co., which developed Columbia, built the original $10 million mall during the post-World War II suburban boom, creating a new way of shopping for Americans. Its opening on Oct. 1, 1958, was big news -- then-Sen. John F. Kennedy cut the ribbon -- and Hochschild Kohn department store anchored the 45-store mall.

But as competition developed from newer nearby malls with big-name stores, Harundale's occupancy and customer traffic dropped steadily.

"The opening of Marley Station Mall [in 1986] really took the wind out of the sails at Harundale," Darrell said.

The problems faced by aging Harundale Mall are not unique. In the past few years, many older malls in Maryland -- and across the country -- have modernized or expanded to compete in the current retail climate.

"It's part of the evolutionary process of real estate," Darrell said.

Mary Stinchcomb of Pasadena remembers shopping at Harundale Mall when it was cutting-edge.

"Noboby had an enclosed place at that time, and we dearly loved it," she said. "We went there all the time."

In its heyday, Harundale Mall was a focal point for the community, as well as a shopping center. It was the site of Thanksgiving Day parades and school bake sales.

When Manekin Corp. bought the failing mall two years ago, the vacancy rate was 65 percent. The developer announced plans to replace the once-innovative enclosed shopping space with a strip design.

Darrell said the strip design was chosen because the Harundale Mall site was not large enough to allow stores to expand to a size equal to those in larger, newer enclosed malls.

"That's going back in time; they're calling strip malls the in-thing now," said Andrea Michel, who was shopping last week at Value City, which has remained open throughout the mall renovation.

Michel, who was a child when Harundale Mall opened, said that although she shops at Value City occasionally, she's not particularly excited about the mall renovation.

"I usually go down to Marley Station," she said. "But I know a lot of people are looking forward to it."

Design plans for the modernized shopping center show the stores facing a landscaped outdoor courtyard with a fountain and seating areas.

The anchor stores at Harundale Plaza will be the Super Fresh grocery and Value City, which has expanded by 30,000 square feet as part of the project.

Darrell said a Hollywood Video store has committed to a space, and he is "on the brink" of signing leases with other tenants. They include a clothing retailer, a cleaner, a hair salon and some restaurants.

Darrell said the renovation delays have not hurt Manekin's ability to attract retailers. "This has been a retail center for over 40 years," he said. "It's a proven location, but the physical plant became obsolete."

Darrell predicted that the new stores would do well in the densely populated Glen Burnie area where the average household income is more than $50,000.

First Union and Crestar banks, which occupied spaces at the mall until April, are doing business in new red-brick buildings at opposite ends of the mall parking lot. Behind the rubble of the demolished First Union building, construction crews are erecting the exterior of the Super Fresh.

For Linda M. Adams, branch manager at Crestar, the bank's move to a new building has meant greater visibility, easier access for customers and the addition of a drive-through. She said bank customers -- particularly the elderly -- are looking forward to the mall makeover.

"They're constantly asking, `What's coming?' " Adams said.

"I think the exciting part is the reviving of the [shopping] center," she said. "The stores have been gone for so long, and the community is excited about them coming back."

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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