The CEO of construction giant Whiting-Turner has personally acquired the shuttered Target store at West Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall for $1 million and plans to invest millions more to transform the long-vacant landmark into a community hub designed to spur neighborhood revitalization.
Tim Regan, also the Towson-based contracting firm’s president, acquired the 127,000-square-foot former big box store, which shut down in February 2018, on Tuesday. Regan announced his plans for the property Friday along with the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, an umbrella group of West Baltimore neighborhoods and anchor institutions that will work with him to explore possible uses.
The redeveloped Target will house TouchPoint Baltimore, a space for nonprofits that’s been based at the mall since 2017 and is funded by Whiting-Turner and BGE. It also could offer retail space for entrepreneurs as well as spaces for tutoring, mentoring and job training programs courtesy of the nearby Center for Urban Families, and possibly a catering/events area and teaching kitchen for food business careers. Whiting-Turner could open a small “midtown” office.
The building and its more than 8-acre site offer “a lot of space and a lot of opportunities,” said Regan, who said he believes the Mondawmin area “is on the cusp of a renaissance.”
“The idea is to light that thing up, as bright and as exciting as we possibly can,” said Regan, adding that one goal is for additional investments to spill over into the mall and nearby communities. “Investment often comes from excitement, and we are trying to create some excitement.”
Neighborhood leaders and elected officials hailed the move as potentially transformational for a community that saw the national retailer’s departure in 2018 as a major setback.
When the Target store opened there in 2008 as part of a larger mall revitalization, residents and officials celebrated the retailer’s jobs and choice for its first city location, taking it as a vote of confidence in overlooked neighborhoods beyond downtown.
When the retailer remained after the 2015 unrest that started near the mall in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody, some took it as Target doubling down on the community, only to be disappointed three years later when the store was closed. Target said it closed the underperforming store after several years of declining profitability.
On Friday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the business executive’s investment represents advancement in a vision for equitable neighborhood development.
“The Mondawmin Mall is a Baltimore institution that serves thousands of our residents daily,” Scott said in a statement. “Tim’s catalytic, pioneering investment to put this space back into productive use makes a profound statement on the transformative possibilities for this transit-oriented, middle-class section of Baltimore City.”
Several Greater Mondawmin neighborhood leaders said they have come to know Regan since his co-founding of TouchPoint as someone who spends time in the area, taking part in organized neighborhood walks to identify needs and contributing to neighborhood projects both personally and through his company.
Regan said he believes he has walked every block in at least six of the neighborhoods. As a “construction guy,” he said he needed to see the area for himself, one with both stately historic homes and blocks of vacants.
“For him to make this step personally does not surprise me at all,” said Frank Lance, senior pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, located a block from the mall. “This has the potential of helping this community to transform a vacant box store into a true community empowerment center. This allows us to reach our potential by having a vacant space become a true town center at the mall itself.”
Lance, who also serves as CEO of Parks & People Foundation and is a former president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, said he sees particular potential for workforce development that could help the unemployed and underemployed in the area and beyond in an accessible part of the city with one of its busiest transit hubs.
“He hears what the community needs and if he can address it, that’s what he’ll do,” though typically quietly and without seeking publicity, said Jackie Caldwell, the 65-year-old president of Whittier-Monroe Community Neighborhood Association.
Caldwell, who grew up across from the mall and next to Frederick Douglass High School, described her neighborhood as tight-knit, a “community of opportunity,” where generations of families still live and work hard to make improvements.
But often it’s the area’s struggles that get attention, she said.
Target, she said, “was a great resource in the neighborhood. When they left, it left a big hole, especially with the vacancy of the building. Now we’ve been blessed with something even better.
“It’s going to be absolutely outstanding,” she said. “I have no doubt.”
Regan said he expects to invest several million dollars more as he invests in renovations of the building for various tenants.
“There is no doubt in my mind that it is a viable venture,” he said.
A Baltimore native who grew up in Gardenville in Northeast Baltimore, Regan said his ties to the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood stretch back to the time just after the unrest.
That’s when then BGE CEO Calvin Butler Jr. reached out to him about finding ways to make a difference other than by writing checks.
“After the Freddie Gray funeral and the unrest that ensued and all those images that we have burned in our brains, this is when Calvin and I started talking seriously,” said Regan, deciding that they wanted to do something that would “break the historical isolation of underserved neighborhoods.”
The two businessmen decided to create a place for nonprofits and chose Mondawmin, not only because of how the area was affected by the unrest but because the mall was easily accessible with available space.
In 2016, Regan and Butler co-founded TouchPoint Baltimore, a collaboration space funded by Whiting-Turner and BGE. It is based in the mall and houses several nonprofits, including Thread and Baltimore Corps. The Center for Urban Families, which is based nearby, also is a partner.
After Target closed, he said, “I’m privately thinking that’s terrible and I wonder if something good could come of that.”
By 2019, he and Butler began brainstorming ideas. Regan talked with consultants and approached Target, a longtime national client of Whiting-Turner along with mall owner Brookfield Properties. The deal closed Tuesday.
“We’re pleased with TouchPoint Baltimore’s plan to use the space to positively impact the community,” a Target spokesman said Friday.
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Community services would be a good fit for a 70-year-old mall that is 98% occupied already and offers city services in areas such as employment alongside shops, said Romaine Smallwood Faison, Mondawmin’s general manager.
“I can only imagine what this new project is going to do, and how it’s going to catapult the mall and its position in the community,” Smallwood Faison said.
Regan said he already has met with residents to let them know about the acquisition.
For Adeline Hutchinson, president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, the deal represents “a critical investment in our neighborhood and resolves widely held concerns about the future of a prominent local landmark that has sat empty for years. This will be a transformational project for West Baltimore.”
Regan he expects to start work right away.
“Certainly a year from now, that place is going to be humming in some fashion,” he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.