By Julie Baughman, email@example.com
11:05 AM EDT, September 11, 2013
In recent months, the string of stores in the middle of Mellor Avenue flanking Magruder Avenue have undergone a number of changes.
But the conclusion of the summer season does not mean the end of activity for the two commercial buildings formerly known as The Mews at Mellor, now The Shops at Mellor.
"We're focusing on trying to change the buildings," said Ashley Chertkof, the landlord of the properties. "Right now, we're trying to create a better product by improving the facility.
"There's definitely an increased interest [in the space], especially this year," Chertkof said. "My speculation would be that the economy is picking up and consumer confidence is increasing and people are more willing to open up businesses."
Catonsville Dog Co., a pet grooming business, recently opened at 25 Mellor Ave., for example, joining a list of nearly 20 tenants at the two buildings.
The presence of the Frederick Road Fridays free summer concert series in the parking lot outside Peace a Pizza at 15 Mellor Ave., the north end of the complex, has also raised awareness of the property.
"I'm working with a tenant to take about 5,000 square feet [in the North building] and I'm very excited about it," Chertkof said. "I think it's a very strong economic indicator, and it's really exciting."
Chertkof said she is working with the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and the Baltimore County Department of Planning to create a plan for changing the facades of the tan buildings with teal trim. Those improvements could also mean changes to the small signs that identify the nearly 20 businesses.
Teal Cary, the chamber's executive director, said the plan will take advantage of help from the county's zero interest Building Investment Loans program.
"This is the perfect time now to make any improvements that they might like to do," she said.
Chertkof said a number of factors contributed to the decision to investigate the loan program, but the influx of interested renters was one of the biggest.
The two women agreed that while the interiors of the Shops at Mellor are bright, spacious and inviting, the buildings' exteriors are not.
"What they're trying to explore and look at is having a greater presence on Frederick Road," said Donnell Zeigler, the western sector coordinator with the county Planning Department.
"There's some parking along that driveway entrance [from Frederick Road], but there's some space in that entrance there [that] they would like to be more inviting so people know their shops are there," he said.
"When the entrance comes in, those buildings are going to have a greater presence and maybe have a facade treatment done," Zeigler said. "Pretty much right now, it's just blank walls, windows and doors."
Zeigler said that, as part of the loan program — which offers up to $30,000 per address — businesses work with an "architect on call" for up to 10 hours at no charge to create a design plan.
Usually, however, there is only one address or one small building involved in the process. Because there are multiple buildings and many different businesses involved with the Mellor properties, Zeigler said the process could take some additional time.
"It's obvious that we needed to do this," Chertkof said of the summer's changes.