New store has designs on Columbia

EXPO to open Saturday, promising benefits for homes, area retailers

October 21, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

EXPO Design Center will open Saturday as the anchor to a new set of strip centers near Columbia Crossing that commercial broker Bob Morris hopes could "bring excitement to the market" - perhaps even enough to help the struggling Dobbin Center.

The 91,000-square-foot store with 10 designer showrooms has beaten its soon-to-be neighbors in Columbia Crossing II by at least a year, a Rouse Co. spokeswoman said.

The new strip center, which will contain a handful of other stores, is adjacent to a second strip mall development called Dobbin Station, also under way. Both centers are expected to open next year.

EXPO will act as an anchor to both centers, and is likely to draw plenty of shoppers, said Patrice Selleck, spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

"[Developers] are trying to bring different types of tenants in to shopping centers," she said.

"If there's a restaurant [in the center], they'll get that evening traffic. It could build some traffic and crossover shopping."

EXPO Design Center, a division of Home Depot Inc., sells higher-end and specialty items, focusing on homeowners who are planning major renovations.

The store's projected 155 employees will help coordinate projects and work with a homeowners' architects and contractors.

A LongHorn Steakhouse is being built at Columbia Crossing II, along with 20,000 square feet of retail space, reportedly to be filled by Buc$ Federal Bank, a Krispy Kreme franchise and a Mammoth Golf store.

At Dobbin Station, adjacent to Columbia Crossing II, several leases already have been signed, said Morris, a KLNB/NAI commercial broker whose company handled leasing there. Both centers are expected to be completed next year.

Morris said the new centers also could help Dobbin Center, across Route 175 from Columbia Crossing.

On the heels of losing its anchor Kmart to bankruptcy in the spring, Dobbin Center suffered another blow last month when BGE Home announced it was closing its stores, including the one in that shopping center. Morris is hopeful that new anchors will come.

"Things are unfolding well there. There's going to be a rebirth of Dobbin Center, it's not done by a long shot," he said. "There's more demand than space right now [in the market]. I hear from the retailers who are interested in that center."

The Columbia Crossing II project has met resistance from the beginning.

Residents in the Arborside at Kendall Ridge townhouse community north of the site complained before the county planning board when the project was proposed.

However, Morris said the store would meet demand in Columbia for upscale home improvement.

"The Columbia market and the demand for home improvement is there," Morris said.

"Do I think the Columbia shopper will do well at EXPO? Very well. If you're looking at Corian countertops in Home Depot, you can look at marble countertops [in EXPO].

I think the Columbia shopper will be totally into that. They want to see the models that have the bells and whistles."

The new design center will offer shoppers a wide variety of choices - 30,000 items will be available for special order in the seven-room lighting department alone, a company spokeswoman said.

The store is to be a display showcase for imaginative renovation ideas - from hammered copper oversized kitchen sinks and $1,300 in-wall cappuccino machines to dual stainless-steel dishwashers and cast-iron six-burner stoves.

Although about 75 percent of a typical EXPO store's business is in special-order items, the center also has items in each department that shoppers can buy off the shelf.

"We think we'll be quite a draw," said Jim Brasche, EXPO operations manager. "We have something for everyone."

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