New mall zoning likely

Hearing tonight on change to allow second-level addition

Sights on national retailer

Expansion no threat to city's downtown stores, official says

November 26, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Since TownMall of Westminster was built 14 years ago, retail outlets in the area have expanded to include a Target, a BJ's Wholesale Club and a Kohl's department store - all brand-new freestanding stores along Route 140.

The mall's footprint has stayed about the same. In addition, mall anchors Caldor and Montgomery Ward have closed, leaving their spaces vacant.

Tonight, Westminster's Common Council is expected to approve a zoning change that would allow the 525,000-square-foot mall to add a second floor, an effort to update the structure and help seal the deal with a national retailer for the former Wards store. The rezoning is one of two issues slated for public hearings tonight.

Neither city officials nor mall representatives would identify the retailer. But Sally Aman, a spokeswoman for Strategic Resources Corp., the mall's investment adviser and fund manager, said the mall was close to signing a contract with the prospective tenant and needs the rezoning to do so.

"We do not have at TownMall a single space with enough square footage to accommodate a national retailer," Aman said.

The prospective retailer needs more than 150,000 square feet. Adding a second floor to the former Wards store would give it that space, she said.

The city's planning and zoning panel recommended approval of the ordinance, which is to be introduced and voted on at the Common Council meeting. If passed, it would:

Change the mall's parking requirement from five parking spaces per 1,000 feet of lease space to four parking spaces per 1,000 feet.

Raise the maximum height of the mall from 50 feet to 75 feet, allowing for a second floor.

Raise the height of signs outside the mall.

City officials have been working with the mall to attract tenants.

Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works, said he expected the ordinance to be adopted today.

"The mall is a huge employer and a huge taxpayer in Westminster," Beyard said. "The city is always interested in supporting the efforts of huge employers and taxpayers."

Council President Damian L. Halstad said he was certain the city's assistance to the mall would not hurt downtown retailers.

"I think it benefits the downtown if we have a successful mall, and vice versa," he said. "If a consumer likes what they see in one aspect of a town, they will probably stick around and look at the rest of the town."

Other items on the meeting's agenda include:

A public hearing on an ordinance to allow multifamily housing for seniors in areas zoned for business use.

The award of a $2.2 million contract to build a 165-space parking deck behind the former Farmers Supply property downtown.

Enacting the rezoning ordinance on 70 acres of the former Koontz property on Route 140 to allow the developer, who is building 188 houses on the property, to use smaller residential lots and provide more open space.

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