Shoppers Food to open E. Baltimore supermarket

57,000-square-foot store to be near Bayview

February 19, 2005|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Shoppers Food Warehouse plans to open its first new Baltimore City supermarket in a shopping center to be built in East Baltimore, an area targeted by city officials in an initiative to bring much needed grocery stores to the city.

Officials of Manekin LLC, the developer and part owner of the former industrial site on Eastern Avenue at Interstate 95, just east of Johns Hopkins Hospital Bayview campus, said yesterday they had been in negotiations with the supermarket chain for about three years.

Manekin plans an $8 million project for the site in an enterprise zone, which includes demolishing a vacant Anchor Fence plant and building a 77,000-square-foot shopping center, anchored by the 57,000-square-foot supermarket.

The new shopping center, Eastern Plaza, will feature about five or six small shops, either restaurants or service-oriented retail, as well as a freestanding bank and restaurant, Manekin said.

The site is across Eastern Avenue from an 11-year-old Home Depot store, the first to be built in the city.

"There's a lot of demand for it, and a lot of support from the community," said David E. Meiners, a senior developer for Columbia-based Manekin.

Meiners said that the site's urban location presented somewhat of a challenge.

"It's an infill site, and the parking is a little tighter," he said. "Generally [supermarkets] want to have more parking than was available on that site. We felt like it was a benefit to the community and worked hard to convince them there would be enough customers nearby that could walk and that the center itself had enough parking."

The Shoppers chain operates 59 stores in Baltimore, Washington and Northern Virginia as Shoppers Food Warehouse and a newer prototype, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. Many of Shoppers' 15 stores in the Baltimore region were converted from Metro supermarkets, a wholly owned chain of Supervalu Inc., which also owns Shoppers.

Shoppers signed a 20-year lease with Manekin late last month for the new store, its first in the Baltimore area since the last Metro store was converted in November 2003. The Eastern Plaza store will employ 120 to 130 people.

`Spurred us'

"We've had 18 months to look at our success doing business as Shoppers, and that has spurred us to continue investing in Baltimore," said R. Kevin Small, vice president of store development for Shoppers, based in Lanham.

"There's a great opportunity for us there. It is a city store and it is highly visible. It allows us to bring in our prototypical format into the market."

Under its newest format, Shoppers, known as an "everyday low price" operator, will devote about 35 percent of the store space to perishables and include an in-store bank and pharmacy.

Shoppers operates one other city supermarket, on Fort Avenue in South Baltimore, and is eyeing other potential sites in the city and elsewhere in the region, Small said.

City officials have been trying to woo full-service supermarket operators to under-served neighborhoods, such as in East Baltimore.

National and regional supermarket chains have been making forays into the city. Last summer Giant Food opened a 67,000-square-foot supermarket on East 33rd Street in Waverly. Safeway, a national chain, has been increasingly investing in urban areas in recent years, opening stores in Baltimore's Canton in 1996, Charles Village in 1997 and Northeast Baltimore in 1998.

"What is nice about [the Eastern Plaza] site is it required no public incentive," said Andrew B. Frank, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., a city agency. "It increases the choice for people in Southeast Baltimore. We think there's enough demand in that area to keep all the grocery stores busy," including the smaller, independently owned grocers.

"Southeast Baltimore is fertile ground for development and rising incomes and a number of supermarkets have been looking" there, he said.

Demolishing begun

Manekin has begun demolishing the former Anchor Fence plant, built in 1927 for chain-link and ornamental fence manufacturing. The plant served as headquarters for Anchor Fence from 1980 until 1997, when Master-Halco acquired the company and relocated operations to Edgewood.

Manekin expects to start construction this summer and complete it in early 2006.

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