Harford Mall, annex bought for $71 million by Tenn. firm

CBL to analyze mix of stores at Bel Air site

January 01, 2004|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Harford County's only enclosed mall and the adjacent shopping annex have been purchased by a Chattanooga, Tenn., real estate company for $71 million.

Harford Mall, built in Bel Air in 1973, is one of the smaller regional centers in the Baltimore area - a single-story building with 500,000 square feet of space. It's anchored by Hecht's and Sears and is about 95 percent full, according to CBL & Associates Properties Inc., the Tennessee company that bought the properties from affiliates of Kimco Realty Corp.

The 108,000-square-foot Harford Annex is completely leased, anchored by Best Buy, PETsMART, Gardiners Furniture and Dollar Tree.

CBL officials said the location, at Route 24 and Business U.S. 1, has a trade area of about 200,000 residents.

"Sales are strong," said Deborah Gibb, corporate relations director for CBL, which announced the deal this week. "Whenever we purchase malls, we look for the dominant retail shopping center in a given market."

People have long speculated that the mall would be expanded to two stories, but Gibb said the company has no immediate plans to add onto the 47-acre site. She said CBL will analyze the mix of stores instead.

"We always look for opportunities to bring in national retailers," Gibb said.

It's already a busy intersection - shopping centers sit at every corner, including The Cordish Co.'s Tollgate Market Place. The nearest major competitor is White Marsh, the 1.1 million-square-foot mall owned by The Rouse Co.

"Harford is pretty far away," noted David L. Tripp, Rouse's vice president of investor relations and corporate communications, who doesn't think either mall will be hurt by the other.

Rouse had considered building a regional mall in Harford in the mid-1990s but dropped the idea. "Ultimately [we] decided the market wasn't large enough, affluent enough," Tripp said. "We're typically looking for a major metropolitan area."

CBL focuses on "middle market areas," and Harford is undeniably one of the fastest-growing in the state. The county added 36,500 people during the 1990s, and the median household income at the end of the decade was more than $57,000, according to the Census Bureau.

Dicky Darrell, a retail broker for Manekin LLC, said several decades of brisk home construction have made Bel Air "a pretty hot area."

"All that growth fueled the retail," he said.

Harford Mall "is on the small side, and it's fairly old - built back in the '70s," he said. "However, [the seller] has maintained it well and kept it well leased."

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