Sam's Club coming to Westview Mall in '01

Move would wrap up redevelopment


June 02, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Sam's Club, the warehouse club division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will open at Westview Mall in March, completing the final phase of the Catonsville mall's $20 million redevelopment.

Fairfax, Va.-based Peterson Cos., which has been redeveloping Westview since buying it with a 40 percent vacancy rate in late 1997, said yesterday that it has finalized a lease with the retailer. The company, one of the Washington area's largest privately owned retail developers, said it expects to start the second phase of mall reconstruction by the end of the month.

That will involve demolishing the mall's 130,000-square-foot eastern wing, now completely vacant, to prepare the site for Sam's Club, which expects to start building in September, said Taylor O. Chess, Peterson's vice president of retail management.

Sam's Club will build a 130,000-square-foot store connected to the mall that will include a separate Sam's Gas and Go station, he said.

Plans call for maintaining the central enclosed portion of Westview - a 160,000-square-foot section that includes interior mall space, the 10-screen United Artists theater and newer tenants such as Jeepers Inc., a Boston-based amusement-themed restaurant. Existing mall specialty stores are expected to remain.

"They've endured vacancies for three years," Chess said. "If they can hang on another nine months, the Sam's will bring traffic they've never seen before."

Value City, a large anchor that has historically performed well despite the mall's troubles, will also stay in its current spot.

Built in 1958 as Westview Shopping Center, the mall has struggled against competition from newer malls. In the three years before Peterson bought the center, Caldor, Marshall's, T. J. Maxx and many small, local retailers closed.

By the time the project is completed, the developer will have invested an estimated $10 million in repositioning the U.S. 40 center, which sits just inside the Baltimore Beltway. Work has included updating the mix of anchor stores, revising the layout and making physical improvements in lighting and parking lots.

The biggest change has been the addition of anchor Lowe's Cos. Inc., which opened a 135,000-square-foot store on the former Caldor site in January. Lowe's and Sam's will have each spent about $5 million on building their stores. Peterson's investment shows confidence in a market that offers a strong, middle-class community and high visibility from the Beltway, said Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development.

"They've done a good job of assessing what will work for the market," Cohen said. "The retailers themselves see it as a good fit. There's every indication that this will be a very positive addition to the retail corridor."

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