New center for retail to join mix in Columbia

Shops at Dobbin Way to be finished in July

Howard Business

March 12, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

To the Starbucks Coffee Co., a new shopping center being built on the south side of the intersection of Dobbin Road and Route 175 represents a chance to plant itself in a market it has been eyeing for years.

But the new shopping center might also be the start of a new look for south-side shopping, spurred in part by the success of the Rouse Co.'s Columbia Crossing, just across Route 175.

In addition to the new retail complex, which will bring six stores and restaurants to the site of the former Alexander's Steakhouse, Rouse and Manekin Corp. are trying to freshen up their offerings in the 16-year-old Dobbin Center, which sits across Dobbin Road, also on the south side of Route 175. Executives from both companies say they are trying to negotiate leases with clients that would include "exterior modification" of the buildings.

"We're contemplating doing some things there," said Wayne A. Christman, vice president of Columbia Management, which runs Dobbin Center. "Columbia Crossing has been very successful. Because it's been new, it has appeal that's been heightened, as opposed to Dobbin Center."

The traffic going across the street to the 2-year-old Columbia Crossing power center has given retailers on the south side reason to liven up their location.

"Dobbin Center does look a little tired, and it kind of needs new energy," said Michael Abrams, vice president of Glenbrook Properties Inc., a Rockville-based development company that is building the new shopping center. "Where Columbia Crossing is, there's a lot of energy there in the day and in the evening."

The Shops at Dobbin Way will be a 13,000-square-foot retail center housing the Starbucks, a Jennifer Convertibles furniture store, an AT&T Wireless store and two other businesses not yet announced, one of which probably will be a restaurant, Abrams said. A Fuddruckers restaurant will also fit on the 3-acre parcel. The project is expected to be completed by July, Abrams said.

Starbucks has kiosks in Safeway supermarkets, and its coffee is sold in Borders bookstores in Howard County, but its first stand-alone store in the county, at The Mall in Columbia, is expected to open next month. The Dobbin Way store will be its second.

Abrams' company bought the Dobbin Road property late last year for $2 million and tore down the Alexander's building in January. The company estimates that the new retail center and restaurant project will cost slightly less than $5 million to build.

"We saw an opportunity to find space for small stores ... with 2,000 square feet or less," Abrams said. "What we saw was an opportunity to provide openings for guys like Starbucks ... players who haven't been able to get in the market but wanted to get in."

A strong commercial market nearby doesn't hurt. The many businesses farther south on Dobbin Road are being complemented with more office space that Liberty Properties Trust is creating on the north side of Route 175.

"Columbia is a growing market," Abrams said. "There's a high demand of retail."

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