The castle at the Enchanted Forest shopping center in Ellicott City will soon get a new next-door neighbor.
Construction crews have broken ground behind the castle, a remnant of the site's days as a beloved fairy tale theme park, to make space for a new building.
According to the site development plan, a new bank will occupy the lot. The plan had listed Chevy Chase Bank as the tenant, though Chevy Chase was acquired by Capital One in 2009 and changed its name to Capital One Bank in 2010.
Geoffrey Glazer, vice president of acquisition and development at Kimco Realty, which owns the site, would only say the company is "presently negotiating with several tenants" interested in the space. But he said "it will probably be a single user" who ends up in the new building.
There already is a M&T Bank at the corner of Route 40 and Bethany Lane, next to the Enchanted Forest shopping center.
Glazer said the goal of current construction was to "get the pad prepared for the retailer," so that once a tenant is chosen, they can begin construction on a new building "sometime by the middle of 2014."
Current building pad preparations on the site will be done "by the end of this year or early next year," he said. "We're trying to beat the winter now, so whoever we end up with can start construction next year."
Glazer said he thought the new building could be open for business "optimistically by late 2014 and realistically by early 2015."
According to county planner David Boellner, of the Department of Planning and Zoning, construction at the site will involve building a retaining wall at the rear of the property and elevating the ground, which currently slopes downwards, to the level of Route 40.
There also are plans to relocate a stream at the site of the new building. According to DPZ Deputy Director Kimberley Amprey Flowers, DPZ issued an environmental waiver for the plan, and the developer also obtained necessary state permits for environmental impact through the Maryland Department of the Environment.
According to the waiver, construction will impact 235 linear feet of the stream, 2,386 square feet of emergent nontidal wetland and 12,526 square feet of regulated buffer. There also will be a temporary impact on 689 square feet of emergent nontidal wetlands on the site.
Boellner said Kimco had taken more than the required steps to protect against environmental damage.
"Some plans would just pipe the stream under the bank, but this plan is better... because they are relocating the stream," he said. Boellner said Kimco also has plans to plant stream buffers on the site.
"I think the development of the site is an improvement," he added. "There were a lot of rubble piles on the site and a lot of dumping had taken place, and it was very environmentally degraded. I think what's going to go in there is actually an environmental improvement."
As for any future projects on the land, Glazer said Kimco had "no further plans for construction at this time."
The Enchanted Forest site on Route 40, bounded by Bethany Lane and the Little Patuxent River, has a cherished place in the childhood memories of many county residents as the location of the first theme park on the East Coast.
Opened in 1955, the park entertained children and families with its sculptures of storybook characters, from Mother Goose to a field of gingerbread men, until it closed in the early 1990s.
Most of the figures were transported four miles away to a new home on the grounds of Clark's Elioak Farm, where visitors can now see the restored original characters and some new ones.
"We've taken everything that can possibly be moved out of there," said Clark's Elioak owner Martha Clark, who said the farm has more than 100 figures from the original Enchanted Forest.
All that remains on the site from the original theme park, according to Clark, is the castle and a mountain, both of which are too heavy to move.
Glazer said Kimco did not currently have any plans to relocate or demolish any remaining figures from the old park.
The iconic castle, he added, would remain at the entrance to the shopping center.