Baltimore County and state leaders will provide $20 million in funding for the community-driven revitalization of Security Square Mall and the surrounding areas — the mall’s first improvement since 1998.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. earmarked $10 million in county funding from fiscal 2022, for the project and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, secured another $10 million in the state budget, which was approved by the General Assembly.
Leaders did not detail how the money would be spent, instead saying that they will pair community leaders with planning experts to collaboratively determine the best way to revitalize the 50-year-old mall property. That process will drive how the investment is spent, officials said during a Tuesday morning news conference at the Woodlawn mall.
“All communities are worthy of investment and capable of revitalization, including Security Square, which has long been a central community hub in Western Baltimore County that has not yet reached its fullest potential,” said Olszewski, a Democrat. “With this investment, we are becoming a fully committed partner in the effort to revitalize this critical economic and community anchor.”
Originally opened in 1972, the mall lost several major retailers and eateries in recent years, including J.C. Penney in 2001, Sears in 2019, IHOP and Bennigan’s. Macy’s and Burlington Coat Factory are the remaining anchors.
Like many malls nationwide, Security Square has lost shoppers and revenue to changing consumer trends and the rise of internet retail.
Security Square became an “eyesore” because it lacked financial investment and cohesion among its multiple property owners, according to Del. Pat Young, chair of the Baltimore County delegation to the General Assembly.
The mall has struggled to adapt as a result because it’s been difficult to get the disparate owners to agree on a course of action, said Young, a Democrat.
The mall is owned the Security Square Mall LLC, a consortium of five entities.
“The mall has the rats inside of it and outside it, and the owners do not get along,” said Danielle Singley, a member of the Randallstown NAACP. “The county has not really held them accountable. There is a level of accountability that has not been in play for decades.”
A message left for the mall manager was not returned.
The last effort to improve the mall was in 1998 when the mall received $2 million for renovations.
As Security Square declined, frustration started to build in the community, Singley said.
“It has been in a dilapidated state for many decades now,” Singley said of the mall. “It was really the community — the NAACP and individuals throughout the surrounding communities — that got this done. Last year, they were on the brink of a protest.”
In response to community concerns, the county opened the Woodlawn Health Center at the O.W.E. Center at Security Square last year. The Set the Captives Free Outreach Center manages the 8,800-square-foot site which is more than twice the size of the previous center, according to a news release. The center offers 24-hour day care, a youth center, a workforce development center and other services, according to Karen Bethea, pastor at Set the Captives Free.
Also, the former IHOP and Bennigans buildings were razed earlier this month, making way for additions, including a new Chick-fil-A scheduled to open this fall.
The Morning Sun
Although the state and local funding is there, the plan to bring Security Square Mall to life will be community-driven, Young said. Since the mall spans a significant area with its parking lots and other parcels, the “possibilities are endless,” but the community has to choose what can be done, he said.
The community also must hold the county accountable for maintaining transparency throughout the planning process, Singley said.
“This is an example of not just one stakeholder being in the conversation about what redevelopment can look like,” Young said. “This is what it looks like when everyone is involved with the conversation.”
The county and state leaders did not announce a specific schedule Tuesday for when community members might come together with professional architects, design professionals, transportation experts and economists to discuss this project. A stakeholder meeting is being planned.More information will be shared as it becomes available, according to a county news release.
“Security Square Mall remains a vibrant place for local businesses and an important part of the community, but the property needs significant revitalization and investment,” Jones said. “This $20 million investment will jump-start this effort and help bring new life to the community.”