New retail projects emerge in Baltimore.

by admin

The major headlines dominating the greater Baltimore region this summer involved the unexpected resurgence of our beloved professional baseball team following nearly two decades of performing at a level below .500, and the logistical challenges facing the organizers of the second annual Grand Prix racing event scheduled for the Labor Day weekend. Connecting this news to the regional retail environment, we see a tremendous amount of winning and successful projects emerging throughout the area, combined with a great deal of noise and fast-moving activity. Fasten your seatbelts for a quick lap around the Charm City marketplace.

Downtown CBD

As General Growth Properties slowly emerged from bankruptcy, the company renewed its focus on re-energizing its retail assets lining the retail magnet known as the Inner Harbor by attracting new merchants and restaurants and upgrading the physical plant. The arrival of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum were among the notable adds. There is still some work to do with regard to reinvigorating The Gallery at Harborplace, which has lost some luster due to the emergence of Harbor East, but the improvements have been noticeable and well received. In Baltimore, the waterfront rules.

The Cordish Company rebounded nicely from the loss of key tenants, such as ESPN Zone and Gold’s Gym, to lure Phillips Seafood restaurant to its downtown Power Plant project (at the expense of Harborplace).

Harbor East remains the $1 billion crown jewel of the downtown market comprising hotels, office space and residential towers, as well as signed destination shops such as Anthropologie, J Crew, Urban Chic and lululemon athletica.

Continuing our swing around the harbor, construction activities are under way on the 320,000-square-foot Canton Crossing, with a reported 90 percent pre-leasing effort completed. Harris Teeter and Target are rumored to have signed leases at the property.

Just off Key Highway, mixed-use project McHenry Row opened its doors. Harris Teeter anchors the property, a site that benefits from the adjacent headquarters of Under Armour.

The reason for the continued interest in Baltimore City is obvious as more than 250,000 people currently reside in the city proper with an additional 220,000 commuting to work everyday. Add to these strong demographics the more than 13,000 college students and 600,000 convention delegates that enter the market annually. Plus, millions more tourists travel to the attractions surrounding the Inner Harbor each year.

However, several trouble spots remain or need focused attention in the Baltimore City environment. Cross Keys, one of the first mixed-use developments created in the country has lost much of its luster and was sold last year. Future plans are unknown. A few miles away, the owners of the Rotunda continue to submit and re-tool development plans, with activity seemingly stuck in neutral. The retail activity surrounding Johns Hopkins University has not successfully left the starting blocks, and a development entity with a clear vision needs to step to the plate.

Anne Arundel and Howard Counties

Activity in the suburbs follows the lead and impressive shadow of major retailers such as Wegmans Food Market, Walmart and Harris Teeter. There is no better example of this than the recent opening of Waugh Chapel South, a power center in Crofton featuring Wegmans, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Regal Cinema and much more.

Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, anchored by one the largest Whole Foods in the country, continues to add space around its periphery. Annapolis Mall, which is located practically across the street from Annapolis Town Centre, has attracted a two-level Forever 21 that took over the former Borders Books space.

Howard County, recognized as the region with the third-highest household income in the country, witnessed the opening of its first Wegmans this summer, in a high-traffic section in the virtual heart of Columbia. Whole Foods Market recently announced its intentions to retrofit the former headquarters building of The Rouse Co., an organization widely considered among the innovators in the retail industry, which was merged into General Growth Properties. The project overlooks the iconic lake in Columbia in the virtual heart of Town Center.

Baltimore County

All eyes remain fixated on the complicated and rapidly changing situation in Owings Mills, where three significant retail-only and mixed-used developments are jockeying for position in an emerging market. Kimco Realty and General Growth Properties have placed on hold the plans for the redevelopment of the Owings Mills Mall, a 1980s-era project, until more clarity is achieved on the proposed Foundry Row development that is located less than two miles away. Foundry Row will bring Wegmans to the area. Literally and figuratively in the middle of these two sites is Metro Centre at Owings Mills, the first transit-
oriented development in the suburban region featuring more than 2 million square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of retail. The dominant issue over the summer was the attempt to re-zone the Foundry Row site, which formerly housed a manufacturing facility for Solo Cup Corporation, to retail use. There are many divided opinions regarding whether Foundry Row offers a feasible site to house the proposed plans.

There is significantly less drama in White Marsh, where Boscov’s is set to move into a former Lord & Taylor department store. (Interestingly, Boscov’s actually occupied the space prior to Lord & Taylor.) Activity is extremely healthy throughout the Towson sub-market with a new with a new Cordish development — called Towson Circle Three — coming out of the ground, excellent backfill occurring throughout the York Road Corridor and Towson Place is well occupied.

The big elephant in the room (which is a good thing) remains Walmart, which is in the midst of a major exercise to convert all of its Baltimore stores into superstore formats, either through expansion or the relocation of existing sites. The domino effects of this program are expected to impact numerous shopping centers throughout the region.

Baltimore, like the rest of the country, survived the retail depths from 2007 through 2009, experienced a turn to the positive in 2010 and 2011 and is now enjoying the fruits an up-ticking economy. 2013 will be a key year in which many new developments will deliver.

Maybe we can finally enjoy a baseball game at Camden Yards in October.

— Tom Maddux, principal with KLNB Retail, the retail division of KLNB LLC

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