Two new retailers could join Target as possible anchors for Mondawmin Mall as owners of Baltimore's oldest shopping mall move forward with a $70 million makeover.
The city's design panel yesterday approved schematic plans for Target's exterior designs. Also, Shoppers and Marshalls were publicly identified for the first time yesterday in renovation drawings submitted by Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc., which owns Mondawmin.
A General Growth spokesman confirmed that the developer is in "advanced discussions" with Target and Shoppers, while it is in early talks with Marshalls, an apparel retailer.
He said none of the retailers has committed to the space.
"We're optimistic and hopeful" about signing new leases at Mondawmin, said Jim Graham, director of public affairs for General Growth.
Officials at TJX Companies Inc. of Framingham, Mass., parent of Marshalls, and Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp. of Lanham did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Target executives would not comment beyond their design presentations before the city panel yesterday.
If signed on to lease space, the three well-known anchors could attract more customers and renew interest in a mall that retail experts and community groups have said was long overdue for redevelopment.
Once one of the city's premier shopping sites, Mondawmin lost its anchor, a Sears Roebuck store, in 1973.
It is now a hodgepodge of sneaker stores and small urban-wear shops. It also has a Stop, Shop & Save grocery store.
"Most of these smaller regional malls, especially Mondawmin, are unanchored," said Thomas H. Maddux, president of KLNB Retail, a commercial real estate company in Towson.
He said a large discount store such as Target could help a regional mall such as Mondawmin reinvent itself.
Renovation plans for the mall, which opened 50 years ago, include construction of spaces for a 127,000-square-foot big-box retailer, a 28,000-square-foot junior anchor, and another grocery store as well as two restaurants on parcels near the mall. Target, Marshalls and Shoppers, respectively, would take over those spaces if leases are signed.
Construction for the smaller anchor store and the grocery store on the east side of the mall has begun.
The upgrades would also include better lighting inside, a pedestrian walkway around the mall and extensive landscaping, including the addition of 500 trees, said David Benn, principal at Cho Benn Holback + Associates, the architectural firm for the project.
"At the end of the day, I hope it's from one end to the other a fun and interesting place," Benn said in an interview. "What we're trying to do is take a fairly uninteresting box and ... make it more alive, vibrant and colorful."
The groundbreaking for Target, slated to be on the west end of the mall, could begin as early as summer, a General Growth official told the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel.
The designs for the retailer include red and gray facades and white-neon arcs, said Douglas Bartolomeo, a Target architect.
Target executives will return to the panel in a few months for additional approval.
It would be Target's first store in the city.
Victim of neglect
For years, residents and merchants said Mondawmin has been neglected and is losing its luster as a shopping hub in the city.
It has been the focus of plans for upgrades in the past, but without results.
In 1999, Rouse Co. presented plans to the design review panel that included spaces for a supermarket, a big-box retailer and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant. Home Depot and Metro Food Markets were said to have expressed interest in the site at that time. But Rouse never proceeded.
General Growth acquired Mondawmin and the rest of Rouse's portfolio for $12.6 billon, including cash and assumed debt, in 2004.
Maddux, of KLNB, said Mondawmin has always been attractive to developers for its convenience to many parts of the city and Baltimore County, its easy accessibility from Interstate 83, and access to buses and a Metro subway stop.
In recent years, retailers have increasingly eyed urban markets for growth as suburban markets have become saturated. What's more, Maddux said, General Growth's ownership has created new energy to move renovation plans forward.
`Great ... potential'
Graham, of General Growth, which also owns Towson Town Center and The Mall in Columbia, said the company is committed to urban development.
"The community surrounding Mondawmin is vibrant and has great economic potential," he said. "We think we could be an important part of the brighter economic future."
Sun reporter Bill Salganik contributed to this article.