Plaza upgrade

New stores: Home Depot, others recognize city-county area's buying power, increasing population.

October 31, 2001

HOME DEPOT'S plan to build a new store at Reisterstown Road Plaza amounts to the retail chain's recognition of this reality: Even as Baltimore City's overall population declines, the northwest area straddling the city-county line shows steady growth of well-to-do residents.

Watch out; it's just the beginning. Plans on the drawing board include:

Redevelopment of Arundel Corp.'s former 255-acre quarry along Greenspring Avenue into a lakeside community of 40 single-family homes, 100 townhouses and 459 multifamily units.

Relocation of Bonnie View Country Club from Smith Avenue to an area north of Reisterstown.

Single-family homes and condominiums would be added to the current 167-acre Mount Washington course, which would become a restricted community for people 55 and older.

These are just two major plans for the area bounded by Northern Parkway, Reisterstown Road, the Beltway and the Jones Falls Expressway.

Some housing also is slated for the old Summit Country Club, along Pimlico Road, which has been sold to a yeshiva.

Off Old Court Road, Beth Tfiloh is proposing to build two six-story condominiums containing 72 units on its campus.

And even though a bid was defeated last year to construct 250 condominium units at Park Heights Avenue and Old Court Road, redevelopment of excess Druid Ridge Cemetery land still seems possible.

Meanwhile, many houses have been enlarged in such city neighborhoods as Cross Country, Glen and Cheswolde as bigger families move in.

Among the beneficiaries of this influx has been Park Heights Avenue's Jewish Community Center, where millions of dollars have been spent on improving facilities.

Home Depot is not the only big chain to recognize the implications of this population expansion some 10 to 15 miles from another of the city's residential growth centers, the Inner Harbor.

Two other chains have gone to great lengths to acquire big commercial parcels, which are becoming increasingly hard to find.

Just south of the Beltway exchange at Reisterstown Road, Target will build a new 126,000-square-foot store.

Nearby, in the heart of Pikesville, Giant is about to construct a new supermarket to replace its aging branch, which was once thought to be so luxurious it was nicknamed the "Gucci Giant."

Those locations, though, are in Baltimore County.

What makes the Home Depot plan so exciting is that the big store would be in the city, which home improvement chains have so far virtually overlooked.

The long-overdue makeover of Reisterstown Road Plaza would include other upgrades as well.

A new, more visible supermarket is on the drawing board.

So are additional freestanding stores on its huge parking lot.

When the covered mall opened in 1962, it quickly became a destination and meeting place.

It had Hecht's and Stewart's as anchors, a big Woolworth's, several restaurants and a popular movie theater.

Over the past two decades, the plaza has deteriorated.

Its management hastened the decline through such miscalculations as effectively evicting senior citizens from nearby apartment complexes who considered the mall their extended living room.

The seniors may have spent little money, but they added immeasurably to the mall's lively atmosphere, and their departure left the plaza a ghost town.

In recent years, Reisterstown Road Plaza has tried to create a niche as a location for wholesale discounters.

While some seem to be doing well, the complex itself is badly in need of rejuvenation.

A new home-improvement store would be a promising start that could draw customers from a wide area of the city and nearby Baltimore County.

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