The head of a Pikesville-based realty company wants to buy the Owings Mills Mall, saying the site would be ideal for a discount supermarket and big-box stores such as Costco and Lowe's.
Carl Verstandig, president and CEO of America's Realty LLC, says he has made an offer to Kimco Realty. His company — whose shopping centers cater to "the blue-collar type" — has been talking with a deep-discount supermarket interested in opening a 65,000-square-foot store at the site, he said.
Verstandig said he would demolish most of the mall but keep anchors JC Penney and Macy's, as well as the nearby movie theater. He thinks the location would work well for big box stores and a "neighborhood center" featuring a drugstore and local merchants.
Kimco formed a partnership last year with General Growth Properties, and the companies planned a $65 million revitalization of the long-struggling mall. But after developer Greenberg Gibbons proposed an upscale shopping center called Foundry Row at the former Solo Cup property nearby, Kimco indicated that it might drop its plan, saying the market couldn't support so much retail.
Since the Baltimore County Council approved retail zoning for Foundry Row in August, Kimco and General Growth have not publicly said what their next steps for the mall would be. Spokesmen for the companies did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
Verstandig said he offered last week to buy the mall — either Kimco's stake only or the whole thing — for 15 percent more than anyone else offers. He said he has been interested in the property for about eight years and has previously offered to buy it.
"What attracts me to it is the road network and the infrastructure," said Verstandig, who once proposed buying the land surrounding Pimlico racetrack to build a commercial center. "You have everything in place. The infrastructure's there, and nobody can complain about traffic."
Greenberg Gibbons also has expressed interest in purchasing the site.
Verstandig thinks a shopping center anchored by a discount grocer would work best for the mall site, saying it could draw people from a 10- to 15-mile radius. Focusing on fashion retailers, he said, would be too similar to offerings elsewhere in the market.
Verstandig's company recently entered into a joint venture with Samuel K. Freshman, chairman of the Los Angeles real estate investment firm Standard Management. That partnership has given America's Realty the financial strength to acquire properties more quickly, as well as resources to build because Standard has a construction company, Verstandig said.
America's Realty LLC specializes in acquiring failing properties. The firm owns about 200 shopping centers in 17 states, and is in the process of acquiring about 60 more centers, Verstandig said.
"We buy what everybody else doesn't want," he said. "We're like the junk dealer."
Its frequent tenants include Food Lion, Kroger, Save-A-Lot, Roses, Family Dollar and Dollar General. The company's properties in the Baltimore area include the Club Centre in Pikesville, the Oakleigh Shopping Center and Nusinov Plaza in Parkville, and the Longreach Village Center in Columbia.
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