New owner for mall

Investment group buys Carrolltown Center for more than $13 million

Deal brings `fresh capital'

July 11, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's oldest enclosed mall, located in its most populated area, has been sold to an Atlanta-based investment group for more than $13 million.

The sale of Carrolltown Center in Eldersburg to Equity Investment Group (EIG), a shopping center management company, was completed June 30. It will bring "fresh blood and fresh capital" to the 22-year-old mall on Liberty Road, said R. Dixon Harvey Jr., president of Black Rock Associates and former owner of the 335,000-square-foot center.

Harvey, who bought Carrolltown in 1993, announced the sale last week. EIG owns more than 100 shopping centers in 18 states, most of them east of the Mississippi River. Carrolltown is its first venture into Maryland and its largest mall.

"They wanted a larger center and this is a big step for them," said Gary S. Lawrence, senior managing director at Insignia/ESG, the broker who represented the seller. "Carrolltown is a large enclosed community center that has shops, dry goods, even a grocery."

With more than 60 shops, offices, restaurants and movie theaters, Carrolltown is about 90 percent leased, Harvey said. He would not disclose the price, but EIG executives confirmed it was more than $13 million. Location in a fast-growing area -- Eldersburg and Sykesville are home to about 28,000 -- played heavily in EIG's decision to buy, said Bob Sutton, the company's director of acquisitions.

"It fit all our acquisition criteria," said Sutton. "We were impressed with the strong demographics and its regional growth potential. It is in an area of strong residential growth and has a proven track record with its tenants."

The sale to a national retailer bodes well for Carroll's economy and shows the county is reaching a broader market, said Jack Lyburn, county economic development director.

"This shows how strong the market is in Carroll County, that a national retailer would come in and buy the county's oldest enclosed mall," said Lyburn.

When Harvey bought Carrolltown, he intended to make it the Main Street of Eldersburg, he said. He expanded the property by more than 35,000 square feet and added several tenants.

Until Black Rock Associates took over management, the mall, built in 1977, had experienced financial difficulties. In 1991, it had been sold at auction to then-Maryland National Bank, which had foreclosed on the property.

"After six years of substantial investment and redevelopment, that potential has become a reality," Harvey said. "EIG has national experience that enables it to go to the next level."

Harvey has long planned a theater expansion, doubling the screens to 12 and adding stadium-style seating.

"The theater expansion is ready to happen and it was an important point of the purchase from EIG's standpoint," Harvey said. "I know they are also working on a major anchor. Carrolltown now needs fresh capital, in the millions of dollars to move forward."

Sutton said he was impressed with the theater expansion and "we are in the process now of studying how to continue with that project. As owners, we are hoping for more new tenants."

Lawrence, the broker, said the theater expansion "is the first step in revitalizing the mall, by improving what is there now and helping tenants expand sales."

Linda Olson, manager of the Little Professor Book Store, a Carrolltown tenant since the mall opened, welcomed the new management.

"New ideas are always good; the sale is supposed to mean positive things will happen," she said. "I would like to see them lease the empty stores. This group is so large, it may have better access to tenants nationwide."

Dave Walsh, president of the South Carroll Business Association, said he would like to see more large anchor stores and no vacancies.

"Carrolltown is really outdated," Walsh said. "They could level the place and start over."

Harvey plans to work with the new owners through a transition period and will maintain his offices at Carrolltown indefinitely. Black Rock Associates will be opening College Square Shopping Center on Route 140 in Westminster within a few months.

Pub Date: 7/11/99

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