Developer eyes outlet mall along I-95 in White Marsh

A Baltimore-based developer is seeking to build an outlet mall with more than 100 stores in White Marsh — just across Interstate 95 from White Marsh Mall and The Avenue at White Marsh.

Paragon Outlet Partners wants Baltimore County officials to allow changes to a previous plan for the 88-acre site that sought more than 1,200 housing units plus office space in a mixed-use development called Nottingham Ridge.

The company proposed a single-story, 440,000-square-foot outlet complex as the first phase of a larger development that could include about 250 residential units and non-outlet shops, according to R. Kelvin Antill, Paragon's development partner.

"We're excited to be part of the Baltimore community and develop a center here in our backyard," Antill said.

Paragon, which has the parcel under contract, could spend $100 million in its first phase, Antill said. If approved by the county, construction could start this year.

County Councilman David Marks, who represents the area of White Marsh where the mall would be built, said Friday that he welcomes the possibility of reducing the number of residential units — mainly because schools in the area already are overcrowded.

But he expressed concerns about other problems an outlet mall could bring, including more traffic and the economic effect it might have on White Marsh Mall and The Avenue.

"I think there's an opportunity to slash the number of apartments proposed ... but that there are obviously some traffic issues that are going to have to be worked out before the project progresses," said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.

"There's always a concern when a new commercial development is proposed and the effect it's going to have on a shopping area that is starting to enjoy a bit of a rebirth," he said.

Neither General Growth Properties, owner of the 1.2 million-square-foot White Marsh Mall, nor Federal Realty, owner of the 300,000-square-foot Avenue at White Marsh, responded to requests for comment.

Marks said he has spoken to representatives of The Avenue and White Marsh Mall about the proposal, and noted that the proposed outlet mall must receive county approvals before it could go forward.

County spokeswoman Fronda Cohen said economic development officials had no comment on the outlet mall proposal. The developer must meet with agency heads to discuss environmental details, traffic and other issues, she said.

A hearing before a county administrative law judge likely would take place in the spring but has not been scheduled, she said.

Antill said the property's current owners, Corporate Office Properties Trust, would retain rights to the two single-story office buildings on the property, which is bordered by I-95, White Marsh Boulevard and Philadelphia Road.

A COPT spokeswoman said the firm does not comment on "actual or potential transactions" until they are complete.

In 2010, a county hearing officer approved COPT's plans for Nottingham Ridge on the site. It was to include up to 1,250 multifamily residential units, about 1.2 million square feet of offices, plus shops, restaurants and a hotel. But construction never went forward.

Allen Robertson, president of the Bowleys Quarters Community Association, said his community has been greatly affected by the traffic produced by development in White Marsh. He said he was pleased to hear that new plans for the site call for far fewer residential units.

"They're making too many multifamily homes in the area," Robertson said. "So this change doesn't bother me at all."

Antill, who worked for the former Prime Outlets company that developed outlets in Hagerstown and Queenstown, said outlets have moved closer to metropolitan centers as they have become an increasingly important part of companies' business models.

For instance, Paragon is building a center less than five miles from Minnesota's mammoth Mall of America, he said, describing it as a complement to the existing shopping. It also is looking at a site in the Bronx in New York.

Paragon has ramped up its leasing efforts and "has strong interest from certain key tenants" for the White Marsh property, Antill said, though he declined to name them.

Proximity to the other malls could play a role in recruiting retailers; many landlords typically include radius restrictions as part of leases to prevent competition.

Antill said he doesn't expect that to be a problem.

"Every site we deal with has some tenants who may have issues ... but we usually can find enough tenants that don't have those conflicts," he said. "We're confident we can do that here as well."

Dennis Bodley, vice president for retail leasing and sales at Colliers International in Baltimore, said the popularity of the new Arundel Mills outlets suggests there is untapped consumer demand for outlets in the area. Outlets and traditional malls are different enough that a new center could be built without hurting White Marsh Mall, he said.

"I couldn't sit there and say there's no overlap, but clearly there's a difference in the consumers' eyes," he said. "It's a separate retail category."

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