County secures pact on plaza

Atlanta developer agrees to buy shuttered mall for mixed-use makeover

`It's excellent news,' says Owens

Jacoby expected to design urban complex that meets resident group's standards

September 20, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

An Atlanta company with deep roots in retail development, including a long list of projects with Wal-Mart, is poised to purchase the shuttered Parole Plaza, an eyesore that has annoyed Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and residents for years.

County officials confirmed yesterday that representatives of Jacoby Development Inc. have signed a purchase agreement with Carl Freedman, a Cherry Hill, N.J., developer whose family has owned the site since 1958, and whose plans for a $250 million makeover have been stalled for nearly a decade.

"Both sides have worked hard to get the deal done," William A. Badger Jr., president and chief executive officer of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., said yesterday. "I think it will be a matter of weeks before it's finalized."

How much the Jacoby group will pay for the land was unclear yesterday.

A source familiar with the real-estate deal added that Jacoby executives will take advantage of a 30-day "due-diligence" period to survey the mall site - wedged between Route 2 and Riva Road near Annapolis - and review existing development standards.

Jacoby officials, who were en route to Atlanta from Annapolis yesterday evening, could not be reached for comment.

Freedman also was unavailable for comment.

County officials, who were only vaguely aware of the purchase agreement details, were hopeful that the deal would go forward. They said Jacoby Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James F. Jacoby - who recently sold 615 acres near the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary to the state for permanent preservation for $4.3 million - has been eyeing the property for more than five years.

"I think it is excellent news based on what I know so far," Owens said.

Owens, a Millersville Democrat who is seeking re-election, said that Freedman called her Sept. 13 to discuss the pending sale. She said he told her that he was confident the Jacoby team could produce a sophisticated, mixed-use urban development.

"He said he felt that Parole would be in good hands," Owens said. "I feel very optimistic that this is an indication of positive movement."

Freedman's long-proposed redevelopment project - a $250 million makeover of the 1960s-style mall - was put on hold recently when he let a grading permit necessary for demolition lapse. It was a sign to some in county government that the property could be headed for the auction block.

Owens said yesterday that the Jacoby group would have to reapply for grading permits and submit its design and construction plans. She said she wasn't sure what would happen to a redevelopment agreement she signed with Freedman a year ago.

Owens said she expects Jacoby Development Inc. to create an urban complex that adheres to strict design standards set by the Parole Growth Management Committee. The residents group has mapped out concise development guidelines for the site, which could offer office space, apartments and shopping.

The Jacoby group "does upscale development and they certainly have the experience and the history to do this project," Owens said. "They have the financial wherewithal, too."

Jacoby has built 40 Wal-Mart stores around the country and is in the process of redeveloping a 138-acre industrial site in midtown Atlanta. The Atlanta project includes an urban mix of uses, among them a hotel, private residences, and entertainment and retail venues.

Jacoby also has executed retail projects in White Marsh, Cockeysville and Timonium, all in Baltimore County.

County Council member Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat from Annapolis who has clashed with Owens over the long-delayed project, said that she needed more information about the sale to feel reassured.

"I wish I knew more," she said. "I was told at one point the deal was done, and now I'm told they are still negotiating."

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