The first jcpenney department store in Harford County will open Friday as a key anchor of The Boulevard at Box Hill retail center in Abingdon.

The new, nearly 86,000-square-foot Penney, an anchor along with Wegmans at the Main Street-style shopping center, was designed to showcase some of the newest elements in the department store chain's redesign.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has unveiled a concept it's calling "Shops," a new store layout organized by brand. The individual shops will feature expanded assortments of each of the brands, such as Levi's, Liz Claiborne, The Original Arizona Jean Co., IZOD, MNG by Mango and i jeans by Buffalo. In the Levi's shop, for instance, customers will be greeted by Levi's specialists working the floor and a denim bar, where shoppers can view iPad images of the 11 styles and 88 denim washes.

 The new department store will also house makeup, skincare and fragrance retailer Sephora.

J.C. Penney has been renovating existing stores. It has completed remodels of nearly 700 stores to usher in the first wave of brand Shops. Over the next few years, additional "shops" will be added to include both apparel and home merchandise brands.

As for the new Harford County store, off Route 924, "This isn't the department store you and I are used to," Thomas Fidler, senior vice president for MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, told the Aegis late last month. " "This something right out of Manhattan. It's going to be a prototype for all their future stores."

Mackenzie is handling leasing for The Boulevard at Box Hill, developed by Harford-based Ward Properties, the Aegis said.

 Jcpenney is the latest anchor to open at the 40-acre project near I-95 that is slated for more than  700,000-square-feet of retail, office, and restaurant space. Wegmans opened a year ago in September.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com