Randallstown store sites draw interest of 2 major retail chains

Liberty Rd. plazas get look by Wal-Mart, Home Depot

October 12, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Two major national retailers are seriously considering space at Liberty Road shopping centers marked by vacant buildings and storefronts, a development that community leaders say could contribute to efforts to revamp the Randallstown area.

Wal-Mart is interested in space at a shopping center at Liberty Road and Brenbrook Drive, according to county officials and a company spokeswoman. And Home Depot is considering a parcel in a second shopping center at the same intersection, according to county leaders.

For a corridor defined by strip malls and fast-food restaurants - establishments that residents have said don't reflect the area's healthy incomes or tastes - the addition of two national retail giants would go a long way, county officials said.

"The revitalization of the shopping centers is part of the renaissance," said Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Democrat who represents Randallstown. He added that "it will be a good shot in the arm to the community to have two good national chains in the Liberty Road corridor that are not fast-food-type entities."

While neither deal is apparently complete, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. first discussed the chains' interest in the sites in a talk last week to the Fieldstone Community Group, a Randallstown-area community association with 250 families who live in an area west of the shopping centers.

The idea of the popular home-improvement chain opening a store in Brenbrook Plaza, which once housed a Kmart, and the major retailer opening one in nearby Liberty Plaza is welcome in a community that has long hoped to attract "good commercial companies," said Pat Clark, the Fieldstone association's president.

"We were all kind of stunned when we heard the news, and thrilled to hear it," Clark said last week.

Smith declined further comment about the retailers' efforts yesterday, but he said there has been a high level of "focus" on the area.

"I think there is now a recognition of the high quality of the people, their education level, their income level - it's getting a tremendous amount of attention," Smith said.

A spokesman for Home Depot said yesterday that he could not comment on whether his company had plans to locate a store in Randallstown.

"Home Depot is always interested in exploring new opportunities," said spokesman Don Harrison. The company has more than 1,800 stores and opens a new one about every two days, he said.

But a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company, which has more than 3,000 U.S. stores and "supercenters," is enthusiastic about the idea of putting a 142,000-square-foot store in the Liberty Road corridor and is hoping for a late summer or fall 2006 opening.

"We anticipate it being a very, very busy store," said Wal-Mart's Mia Masten.

The company began looking in Randallstown after people wrote asking for a store and after information about the area's retail needs appeared in the news media, she said.

The chains' interest follows a series of efforts on behalf of Randallstown, a community with a median income among the highest in Baltimore County at more than $58,000, according to U.S. census data.

An Urban Design Assistance Team visited the area last year to help create a plan that would boost its strengths while reducing its problems. County officials are looking for sites for a community center. And recent legislation tied an increase in the number of liquor licenses a business or individual could hold in the county to use in the Liberty Road corridor - a provision community leaders hope will attract a more "upscale" chain restaurant.

The presence of large retailers in Randallstown would also give residents a reason to stay in the area when they shop, said John McPhaul, president of the Liberty Road Business Association.

"The potential in our area is great," he said. "Other areas, you might say, are saturated, but our area is in the blooming stage."

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