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Planning Board approves plans for Columbia mall redevelopment

The county Planning Board Thursday unanimously approved General Growth Properties' plan to remove 30,000 square feet of retail at the Mall in Columbia and replace it with 75,000 square feet of retail to create an outdoor-facing "lifestyle center."

The approval of GGP's final development plan clears the way for the company, which owns and manages the mall, to begin the site development process, during which more details of the planned lifestyle center will be revealed.

A presubmission community meeting on GGP's site development plan is scheduled for July 24 at 6:30 p.m., in Room 400 of the Rouse student services building at Howard Community College.

The plans for the mall include removing the L.L. Bean store near the entrance of the mall next to Starbucks. L.L. Bean volunteered to move to a smaller space, according to GGP senior development director Jim Whitcome, who said negotiations are still in progress to find an appropriate space.

"We're taking that opportunity to open that connection back up," Whitcome said at the July 12 board meeting. "We will open up the mall entrance that was there."

The entrance Whitcome was referring to led into the upper level of the mall where the J.Crew store is now. The store will be removed to open up the old entrance, he confirmed after the meeting.

Also being removed as a part of the project is a parking area behind the L.L. Bean building used mostly by employees, according to Michael Pieranunzi of Century Engineering, the company that helped GGP prepare the plan.

The plans also calls for secondary "amenity space," which will connect with the amenity space in the Warfield neighborhood where Howard Hughes is building a mix of residential and commercial space. Whitcome said GGP intends to use its amenity space to display art from local artists.

GGP also presented to the board slightly altered boundaries for the mall neighborhood to include larger areas near Nordstrom and Sears, both of which have the right to expand if they choose to, Pieranunzi said. The revised boundaries also include the parking deck near the Lord and Taylor in the neighborhood.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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