Kann Partners shows its design for the new Lowe's and Walmart… (Kann Partners rendering )
A second Walmart store will open in Baltimore by the fall of 2011 as an anchor at a $65 million shopping and residential development planned for a parcel that has housed the Anderson Automotive dealership for decades.
Walmart executives announced Thursday they are planning a new store at the 25th Street Station project being spearheaded by developer Rick Walker. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, would join Baltimore's first Lowe's Home Center as tenants in the center. The new store would generate 250 jobs, according to company officials.
The commitment from Walmart was hailed by city officials as a sign that major retailers are eyeing Baltimore and as a convenient addition for area shoppers who often head to the suburbs for more store options. The two name brands of Walmart and Lowe's also are expected to drive traffic, bolstering nearby businesses.
"The interest of both Lowe's and Walmart is a welcome sign that major contemporary retailers see Baltimore City as a viable market," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development arm. "It's an indication of increasing retail interest in the city."
The development has been criticized by some neighborhood activists who say plans don't adequately address the potential of increased traffic in the area. And Thursday, neighbors had a mixed reaction to the arrival of Walmart, once derided for its treatment of employees and a market dominance that crowded out smaller retailers.
Walmart has been working to burnish its image - most recently with its environmentally friendly initiatives. The planned Baltimore store is emblematic of those efforts. It will be the first to open in this area since executives launched a campaign to retool stores with new graphics and merchandise as well as eco-friendly construction and operating practices. The new store will have a vegetated "green roof" covering more than an acre.
Company officials say the new store will contain a full-service supermarket and pharmacy, plus all the categories of merchandise Walmart shoppers expect, including clothing and electronics. There will also be new items such as organic baby food and produce from local farmers.
The city's first Walmart opened in Port Covington in 2002. The latest store would be the eighth in the Greater Baltimore area.
The new location will be unusual for Walmart because it will be built on top of the Lowe's store - much of which will be below ground - and will be 93,000 square feet, about half the size of Walmart super centers.
Rhoda Washington, regional senior manager for Walmart, said company officials had been looking for additional locations in Baltimore to build when they saw news reports in December about the retail development planned to replace Anderson Automotive. That dealership is consolidating its operations in Baltimore County after General Motors Corp. chose not to renew its franchise agreement in the city.
"We are absolutely committed to this site. The developers have done an outstanding job," Washington said. "We think it's a great opportunity to showcase who we are."
The latest plans for 25th Street Station, by Kann Partners of Baltimore, call for it to contain a total of 320,000 square feet of retail space, 80 to 90 residences, and 1,050 parking spaces on 11.5 acres. The parcel is within walking or driving distance of several neighborhoods, including Charles Village, Remington, Station North and the Old Goucher Historic District.
Walker's group, WV Urban Developments LLC, disclosed plans in December to build a supermarket and pharmacy atop Lowe's but didn't identify operators. Washington said Walmart representatives approached the developer and worked out an agreement to occupy the space above Lowe's, contingent on the developer's ability to obtain design and zoning approvals.
On Thursday, architect Donald Kann met with Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel as part of the review process. Construction is expected to begin this year.
Brodie likened Walmart's 25th Street project to Target building its first city store at Mondawmin Mall and Best Buy opening a branch on Pratt Street. He added that Walmart isn't seeking any financial assistance from the city to come to 25th Street.
Ballard Spahr attorney Jon Laria, who is working with the development team, said Walmart and Lowe's are strong anchors that will help draw additional retailers to the project.
"Its all synergistic," Laria said. "The power of having Lowe's and Walmart together is that they are going to allow us to attract many other tenants. It's going to help the vitality of all the other businesses that come to the project as well as existing businesses in the area."