IN NOVEMBER, Arundel Mills, a "shoppertainment" center developed by the Virginia-based Mills Corp., will open on 400 acres in Hanover, not far from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Arundel Mills, an updated version of Potomac Mills in Virginia, aims to attract shoppers from throughout the Baltimore region and snare tourists stepping off planes at BWI.
But what good is another collection of stores, shops and movie theaters? Shoppers already have plenty of destinations (if they can afford the gas to get there). With large malls in Towson, Columbia, Security Square, Marley Station, Annapolis and White Marsh, will 1.4-million-square-foot Arundel Mills contribute to the area's quality of life?
Even if it's good for shoppers, what contribution can the mall make to a regional economy that really thirsts for technology companies? Will this Goliath spell the demise of competing shopping centers and retailers?
Neil Shpritz, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership: It significantly contributes to the quality of life in the area, which is about attracting good employees.
It will employ technology for its own communications purpose.
Arundel Mills adds a real new dimension. The shopping centers the Mills Corp. constructs are not garden-variety shopping centers at all. They are really entertainment complexes.
As for competing with other retail, the pattern, as I understand it, is that when a Mills shopping center opens it takes business away from other malls for a short period of time. Then the patterns of shopping change again. The final outcome is that they build a market. It's very much like what I like to call the Southwest effect at BWI Airport. They take a market and build it rather than take away from competitors.
Dennis J. Donovan, principal of the Wadley-Donovan Group of Morristown, N.J., a corporate site location company:
Any time land is at a premium, there's going to be controversy. I would assume that the region needs more retail or these developers wouldn't be erecting a mall. The two can co-exist. Retail services are also important for businesses.
Maybe the land would've been more properly zoned for high technology development because Baltimore and Anne Arundel County are perfect for high technology, but it's incumbent upon county leadership to provide the sites for high technology development.
Cathy Castellan of Hanover:
We were asking the same question when we found out they were going to build the mall. My husband and a group of us said that Marley Station Mall is less than 10 miles, and the Columbia mall is pretty close in the other direction. If you lose Marley Station Mall because you have Arundel Mills, how much are you really gaining?
Some of the local business around here, I don't know if they're going to pull out, but I would think their businesses are going to be affected.
We said up front, "Why didn't they look at high tech?" We were told that people in Meade Village need jobs. They can get in there and support a family and have their dreams come true. But are minimum-wage jobs really going to provide enough money to help people buy a house? All this talk sounds good, but where's the plan to back it up?
A job alternative
Lewis Bracy of Hanover, a community activist and National Security Agency employee:
I do believe that the mall has a place in this high-tech world. The mall is going to be a place for people who don't have high-tech skills to get employment.
In the old days, people used to leave school to get jobs at the steel mill. It wasn't high tech, but it was long-term employment.
Living in the area, I was one of the people who initially opposed the mall because of the proximity. You worry about traffic and those things. But since it was obvious that it was going to come, I thought you'd better make lemonade out of lemons and see how it would benefit the African-American community and make sure as many jobs as possible go to local citizens. As to whether we needed another mall, I was one of those people who initially felt that we didn't. We have Marley Station Mall, they recently expanded the mall in Columbia and we're not that far from Security Square. I was trying to figure where the people will come from to support another mall. Apparently the company has done its research well.
Point of pride
William A. Badger Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp.: