Garland's Gardens to add 6 to 8 shops

Center owner, developer will build on part of Catonsville-area property

August 17, 2002|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Through three decades of economic ups and the downs on his stretch of Ingleside Avenue in the Catonsville area, Garland Williams has provided flowers, plants and personal advice to the region's gardeners.

Now, the owner of Garland's Gardens is planning to take advantage of an upturn in the neighborhood. He plans to build a strip of shops around the garden center.

"Our volume has peaked, and there is so much going on in the area that it seemed like a good time to do this," Williams said. "It seems like all the retail space from the city line to the Beltway has been transformed. There are lots of people coming to this area to shop."

He has teamed with veteran shopping center developer Carl Verstandig, president of America's Realty LLC in Pikesville, to build six to eight small shops on Williams' property. They will condense the garden center and use space in the parking lot to accommodate the shops.

Verstandig said he has interest from a health food store, a discounter, a women's clothing shop, a paint store, a beauty salon and a sandwich shop. Three have stores in other Verstandig shopping centers, of which he has about 60 in the region, mostly older, distressed centers that he bought and redeveloped.

"There is limited space; the corridor has really filled out," Verstandig said of the area around U.S. 40 and the Beltway. "It's really become a great location."

Williams said he no longer needs so much space because customers haven't been buying larger trees and shrubs in recent years. His sales, about $4 million a year, are more dependent on flower arrangements and smaller plants for gardens.

He will continue to focus on the business as Verstandig leases and manages the new shops, which are expected to open from January to April, missing the busy Christmas.

Verstandig bought half of the property, and the two will split the estimated $1 million in development costs.

When the project is finished, the two plan to build a second Garland's Gardens shop in Pasadena alongside Long Point Shopping Center, which Verstandig owns.

Other major investments have been made recently in the Catonsville area.

Westview Mall, which had been about 40 percent vacant, has undergone a makeover, mostly completed in 2000, that includes new development in the strip shopping center style. A Lowe's home-improvement store and a Safeway grocery store have opened.

Retail vacancies in the area, which Verstandig said was 10 percent to 13 percent a few years ago, are mostly nonexistent.

Over the past 31 years, Garland's Gardens has endured droughts and a fire that destroyed the building.

Williams said he does a lot of advertising and has developed a strong clientele. The new stores should bring more people, he said.

Baltimore County permits and economic development officials said they did not know about the project. But Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for the economic development department, said officials are pleased with the construction in the corridor.

"Certainly, the area has seen a lot of revitalization and renewal," she said. "It's a strong retail corridor, surrounded by strong neighborhoods. We're quite pleased to hear about additional private investment."

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