Mall gets new look for its 35th

After evolving over the decades, it remains center of community, officials say

October 14, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

A few of those cutting the ribbon to celebrate Harford Mall's 35th anniversary and major renovation remembered the original groundbreaking.

William B. Seccurro, president of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, recalled the two sisters who tied themselves to a towering oak tree in hopes of saving it from the ax. A quick look around the mall and its 2,500 parking spaces shows they were not successful.

Bel Air Mayor Terry O. Hanley once mowed the fields near where the mall stands, at U.S. 1 and Route 24. The restaurant that occupies that former pasture across from the mall is the busiest in its company's chain.

Bonefish Grill, the first of several new businesses at the mall, opened its 264-seat restaurant in August and looks to follow that lead.

"Within 45 days, Bonefish is No. 1 in the country in its chain," Hanley said.

County Executive David R. Craig and his wife bought their first television at the mall, a week after it opened on Oct. 12, 1972.

"My wife has shopped here continually ever since," Craig said, carrying a small shopping bag, evidence that his wife is not the only shopper in the family.

Since it opened, the 500,000-square-foot mall has been "the heart of Harford County," offering its corridors for fairs, concerts, art shows and business expos, Seccurro said.

Many recalled going to the mall's Orange Bowl when they were teenagers, dining on pizza before taking in a movie. The county's first enclosed shopping center has evolved over nearly four decades, but it remains focused on the community it serves, officials said.

"Its center court is our community center," Seccurro said. "The mall has created jobs and paid taxes, lots of taxes. As it has grown, our community has grown."

Privately owned for most of its history, the mall and its annex were purchased for $71 million three years ago by CBL & Associates Properties Inc. Based in Chattanooga, Tenn., CBL owns 79 shopping malls across the country, including York Galleria in Pennsylvania. Harford Mall is the company's fourth-largest enterprise and its only Maryland property.

The ribbon-cutting Friday marked the completion of an 18-month project that included renovating the mall inside and out, demolishing the food court area and constructing the lifestyle center, whose tenants are Qdoba Mexican Grill, Bonefish Grill, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Sleep Number by Select Comfort. Maggie Moo's Ice Cream & Treatery and Zacks Dogs will move in soon.

The interior reflects the earth-tone colors of the exterior with added lighting, tile floors, upgraded restrooms and several areas with soft seating.

"This has been an 18-month project that has taken us from renderings to reality," said Bernie Spicer, the mall's marketing director.

While the Bel Air High School Jazz Ensemble entertained at the entrance to the main court, the speakers and the crowd filed into the shops.

"I don't know why everybody isn't shopping," Craig said.

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