An Annapolis developer with a contract to buy Golden Ring Mall said yesterday that he hopes to start redeveloping the eastern Baltimore County mall early next year.
Petrie Ventures Inc., through a joint venture with Cleveland-based Heritage Development Co., also a shopping center developer, has a contract to purchase the 26-year-old mall from Simon Property Group of Indianapolis.
"It does appear we will be proceeding with redevelopment and hoping to break ground in January or February," said Walter Petrie, chairman of Petrie Ventures. He declined to provide further details.
Under a preliminary plan submitted to Baltimore County last spring, developers would demolish the struggling mall and build a retail "power center."
That plan showed a 129,000-square-foot discount department store, a 128,000 square-foot warehouse club, a 114,000-square-foot home improvement store, the existing Wards, two smaller sites for stand-alone tenants and parking for 1,875 cars.
But Petrie said yesterday that he could not comment on whether that proposal stands.
Billie Scott, a spokesman for mall owner Simon, said only that Simon has entered into a sales agreement.
"There are certain activities that need to be accomplished on our part and the buyer's part before the closing occurs," she said.
Baltimore County officials have not received a formal development plan for the site, said Donald Rascoe, development manager for the county's Department of Permits and Development.
Wards, one of two anchor department stores, plans to stay in the redeveloped center.
"We're excited about it, and ready to do a remodel," said Charles H. Knittle, a Wards spokesman.
But Hecht's - the other anchor - is to close in early 2001.
"We are in the process of selling the Golden Ring store," said Diane Daly, a Hecht's spokeswoman. She had no further details on the sale.
The bulk of the mall's specialty store tenants have moved out over the past few weeks, tenants said yesterday. Only about a dozen specialty retailers, out of about 70 stores, remain, besides Wards and Hecht's.
Yesterday, a moving van sat parked in front of the mall. One merchant wheeled racks of clothing out the main entrance and into a minivan. Other store employees worked behind metal gates in nearly stripped-bare spaces, packing up merchandise.
Some posted notices outside their gated storefronts, such as one directing Hair Cuttery clients to other locations to find their favorite stylists.
Several managers said their stores will close today. Others said they will stay through the end of the year.
Brijinder Singh, owner of Fresh Fashion, a childrens and ladies formal apparel retailer, said the mall redevelopment plans came as a surprise. Management notified her in early October that she would need to close by Nov. 5, she said.
"They told us they're going to demolish this mall," said Singh, who is planning to move all the merchandise to an existing store in Eastpoint Mall. "When we signed the lease, we were promised we could do Christmas here."
Gina Louvar, the manager of Rave, said her store would be closing today. "We're not pulling enough money in for the payroll," she said, But, "they haven't told us they're closing the mall or what they're doing with the mall, or that we have to be out."
Golden Ring, one of the area's older suburban malls, opened in 1974 with a Stewart & Co., Montgomery Ward and Hecht's. But the center has lost shoppers and tenants to newer, larger regional malls since the mid-1980s.
Now, Golden Ring is to join other older area malls, such as Hunt Valley Mall, in being "de-malled" and redeveloped with big box retailers.