Mall a sign of the times

Westfield expansion illustrates area's upscale development boom


A $100 million expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis will make it the largest mall in Anne Arundel County, and local and state leaders say it's the latest sign of how the county has become a magnet for high-end development.

At a formal announcement of the addition Friday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and County Executive Janet S. Owens addressed some of the other upscale projects either under way or on the books and said the impending job growth at Fort Meade will attract more.

"It's an exciting economy," Ehrlich said. "Westfield doesn't make these decisions lightly."

Westfield will grow by more than 240,000 square feet, to about 1.5 million. The space will incorporate high-end restaurants, more than 60 specialty shops and two mini-anchors. Three parking structures with about 1,100 spaces will be built above the addition on the mall's north side.

Officials of the Westfield Group, an international shopping center company based in Australia, expect to complete the project near Christmas 2007. Westfield scaled back its initial plans for a 300,000-square-foot expansion that was believed to include Crate & Barrel and Dick's Sporting Goods.

John A. Pattillo Jr., a senior vice president of development for Westfield, said the company is on the verge of signing deals with both mini-anchors.

Pattillo said that based on the changing demographics in the county, retail's expansion into the Parole area - including the new $400 million Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole less than a mile from Westfield - "will make the whole area stronger."

Based on figures released by Westfield, its Parole mall serves more than 560,000 people, with an average household income of $92,531. According to U.S. Census figures from 2004, the median household income in Anne Arundel is $66,986 - about $22,000 higher than the national average.

As thousands of high-paying jobs pour into Fort Meade over the next decade because of an expansion of intelligence operations at the Army post, business leaders said there will be plenty of wealth to share.

Other major projects under way include the doubling of the Village at Waugh Chapel in Gambrills. In late April, Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp. announced plans to start building a Wegmans, a high-end supermarket, there next year.

The $300 million Park Place development on the outskirts of Annapolis' historic downtown remains on schedule to open next year. Its amenities will include a four-star hotel and condos priced up to $1.3 million.

More multimillion-dollar "town center" development has been proposed for Odenton and Glen Burnie.

"There's a dynamic taking place in Anne Arundel County that's starting to come to fruition," said Bob Burdon, president and chief executive of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. "It reconfirms what we feel, sense and know. ... Anne Arundel County has become a key player."

Gene Condon, the general manager of Arundel Mills, the largest mall in the county at more than 1.3 million square feet, called the operations at Westfield and Arundel Mills "very complementary."

"They feed off each other," said Condon, who attended the Westfield announcement. "We are all friends. We are excited for Westfield."

Aaron Greenfield, president and chief executive of the county's economic development arm, said in an e-mail that the Westfield expansion "underscores the transformation occurring throughout the county as our growing population demands a variety of choices for living, working, and playing."

The Westfield expansion will add more than 1,000 full- and part-time positions to the 3,500 that currently serve the mall's 150 specialty shops, five anchor stores and 11-screen movie theater.

Ehrlich said that he was delighted by the jobs that will be created at Westfield. He's also a personal fan of the mall: First lady Kendel Ehrlich is a frequent shopper there.

"God forbid if California Pizza Kitchen ever closes," Ehrlich said.

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