The Laurel Mall, desolate for years and with empty stores outnumbering those with tenants, officially closed its doors May 1.
Signs posted on doors at various mall entrances read: "Mall has been permanently closed for business from May 1st." However, the post office, located on the lower level near the former Macy's; and the Burlington Coat Factory, which has a long-term lease, remain open.
The mall is owned by Somera Capital Management and AEW Capital Management, but managed by Greenberg Gibbons Commercial. The Owings-Mills based developer was brought on board the team last year to take over the redevelopment of the mall, which had been in the works for years.
"If the development moves forward, then we will join a joint venture with (Somera and AWE)," GGC's president and Chief Operating Officer Tom Fitzpatrick said.
GGC plans to demolish the mall and develop a new open, town-center style shopping plaza called Laurel Town Centre.
However, those plans are being held up by Burlington Coat Factory's decision to remain at the mall.
"Burlington has a lease for the next eight years, and if we can reach an agreement with Burlington, then we would be prepared to move forward with the redevelopment," Fitzpatrick said.
Asked how long he anticipates that will take, Fitzpatrick said: "I've been negotiating with them for a year and a half."
GGC has a demolition permit from the city for the parking deck, he said, and is "in the process of continuing our engineering to have a demo permit for the rest of the mall."
However, Fitzpatrick noted, "I don't think any demolition is going to begin until we reach an agreement with Burlington."
Burlington doesn't seem to know what their plan is either. A publicist for the company said the real estate department could not provide direct answers to a reporter's questions, but their general sentiment is: "Burlington is continuing to negotiate with the landlord. It's a good location for us and we look forward to staying as we continue to service the residents of this community."
Though the timeline for the redevelopment still remains unclear, GGC has already lined up tenants for Laurel Town Centre, according to previous Laurel Leader reports.
Post office to move to trailers in June
After Macy's closed March 31, Fitzpatrick said GGC gave remaining tenants notice they would have to be out by May 1.
"The post office is relocating temporarily to some trailers on the back parking lot," Fitzpatrick said.
Laurel Post Master Chuck Malinich said a date for the post office to move into the trailers has not yet been scheduled, but it will be some time in June. Until then, the post office will operate under its regular hours out of its location in the mall. The mall entrance on the lower level by the post office remains open.
The Laurel Mall post office last year was put on a list of 3,700 post offices, postal stations and branches that federal officials were considering closing as officials look for ways to reduce costs.
"I'm not sure where that's at. ... Everything is on hold right now," Malinich said.
As of now, he said, the plan is for the post office to operate out of the trailers until a new home for it is built in Laurel Town Centre.