Mall expansion slated to begin early next year

Westfield Shoppingtown to add 300,000 square feet

County gives preliminary OK

Design would emphasize Bestgate Road entrance

August 19, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

If patrons are unsure where the front of Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis is, representatives for the mall believe they can eliminate any confusion starting next year.

That's when construction is slated to begin on a 300,000- square-foot expansion near Bestgate Road that will make the mall again the largest in Anne Arundel County.

County officials recently gave Westfield preliminary approval for the plans. Grading and utility relocation are expected to begin after Christmas, general manager Carol Fearns said, with 15 months of construction slated to start in March.

With an anticipated price tag of more than $100 million, the expansion will include a 75,000- square-foot "mini-anchor" that could be filled by Dick's Sporting Goods. Plans call for two levels of rooftop parking above the new retail area.

Mall representatives expect the design will give the desired focus to what has always been considered the main entry to the mall, although it's situated opposite Jennifer Road, which has closer access to Routes 2 and 450 and U.S. 50 than Bestgate.

They see traffic benefits to limiting the number of people from entering the mall from Jennifer Road.

"We want to create the tendency to be on the other side," Fearns said.

Tim Lowe, executive vice president for development at Westfield, said yesterday that his company has interest in Pittsburgh-based Dick's and in Crate & Barrel, but no agreements have been signed.

"It's part of our company policy to constantly add things on to our malls that our patrons are looking for," Lowe said, adding that Crate & Barrel is looking to expand into the Annapolis market. Westfield considers the home-wares retailer to be on its "hit list."

Westfield representatives said that although the size and general location has been decided, most other details are in flux. Fifty to 100 shops could be accommodated by the addition. The Parole mall currently has 175 specialty stores and five retail anchors.

The new retail space would boost the mall's size to 1.5 million square feet, surpassing Arundel Mills, which has about 1.2 million square feet.

Fearns said she expects to release a detailed list of vendors and precise layout in November.

When Westfield announced the expansion plans last summer, they called for breaking ground on the Jennifer Road side and adding about 30,000 fewer square feet. A county spokesman had said J.C. Penney would be demolished as part of the original plans, but mall representatives again stressed that the retail store's elimination was never considered.

Since taking control of the mall in 1997, Westfield added an 11-screen movie theater on the Jennifer Road side, as well as other modifications. Fearns said top Westfield officials expressed reservations about creating a lopsided effect by putting more retail on that side of the mall.

The State Highway Administration agreed last month with plans to create a median along Route 450 from Jennifer Road to Route 178 to help traffic flow.

"We want to encourage people to use Bestgate Road" to get to the mall, said Scott J. deGraffenreid, the mall's marketing director. "We want to give them that really good traffic flow, so they can get in and out easily."

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