Can Old Town Mall rise again?

Redevelopment: New supermarket, bank and restaurant will be anchors in the latest revitalization effort.

April 18, 2000

CONSIDERING the desolation of today's Old Town Mall, it's hard to believe that its revitalization helped Baltimore win an All-American City award 23 years ago.

A new $5 million resuscitation attempt has been announced. Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust is to construct a major supermarket, bank and restaurant as anchors. The Lutherville-based firm has turned around several down-at-the-heels shopping centers, including York Road Plaza.

Old Town Mall, at Gay and Orleans streets, represents a tough challenge. In recent years, struggling retailers have taken a double hit. First, the surrounding area's population decreased when high-density public housing was demolished. Then the city closed Belair Market, evicting dozens of meat, fish and produce merchants who had been among the area's few drawing cards.

The future may be brighter, though, with the area between City Hall and Johns Hopkins Hospital slated for redevelopment. That plan will bring more jobs and a larger daytime population.

But if Old Town Mall is to rise again, a supermarket, bank and restaurant are not enough. Existing shops must be spruced up, better variety created. This can best be done through imaginative leasing and maintenance strategies overseen by a professional management company.

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