Mall Plans To Go Upscale

Harford location to transform into `lifestyle center'


The Harford Mall is looking to reinvent itself as a "lifestyle center," extending toward U.S. 1 and pursuing a more upscale stable of retailers, according to Bel Air and county officials.

The mall, at Bel Air Road and Route 24, is the only enclosed shopping area in the county and has faced competition in recent years as upscale retail development has crept down Route 24.

According to those familiar with the plans, the goal would be to transform at least part of the mall into what's being called a lifestyle center, bringing in a higher-end clientele with shop entrances accessible from the outside.

The net expansion would be relatively modest -- 2,500 square feet -- though plans submitted to the Bel Air Planning Commission on Monday indicate the project would make an additional 18,000 square feet from the current structure available for lease to new retailers.

"I think retail's an industry that is constantly reinventing itself -- there's constantly a need to freshen up the offerings," said J. Thomas Sadowski, the county's director of economic development. "New stores come onto the scene and generate interest and sales. This looks like a repositioning to better serve those needs."

Current plans are said to be similar to The Avenue at White Marsh, he said.

"Lifestyle" malls have caught on in recent years, offering a break from the traditional enclosed malls that were widespread in the 1970s.

Most lifestyle centers are near affluent neighborhoods, and offer a village atmosphere of sidewalks and street lamps to complement an upscale tenant mix.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 130 had been built across the nation as of May, with nearly 20 in the works.

The Harford Mall's retail offerings -- which include Aeropostale, Bath & Body Works, FYE, Old Navy and Victoria's Secret, in addition to its anchors, Hecht's and Sears -- would seem to fit that bill.

Manager Lauri Altman of CBG & Associates Properties would not comment until the site plan is approved by the Planning Commission. The plan is slated to be presented to the commission Oct. 6.

According to the plans submitted to the city, an additional 20 parking spots would be added, though the ratio of spots per square feet would drop slightly. The mall's total square footage would jump from 490,101 to 508,347.

"They're looking to reconfigure the parking lot, add landscaping and redo the center as a whole," said city planner Jenny King.

The Web site of the architect -- MSTSD of Atlanta -- shows several retail facelift projects from Detroit to Kentucky, including Discover Mills in Atlanta for the Mills Corp., which owns Arundel Mills in Hanover.

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