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Talks under way about Fallston Mall's future, community leaders say

Fallston Mall
(BRYNA ZUMER AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

It's hard to still call Fallston Mall, tucked away at the northeast corner of Routes 1 and 152, a shopping center.

Almost all of the storefronts that form a neat square around a patchy area with some benches, fronted by a tall, faded, abstract sculpture, are vacant.

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Its main sign of vibrancy is Harvest Fare, the local supermarket that recently moved into the former site of Acme.

But community leaders are looking to the center's future, hoping its owner can stir interest in rebuilding the rundown mall.

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County Councilman Joe Woods, who represents the neighborhood, said at a recent community council meeting that the mall's developers are considering what the site could be used for.

Although he said there is a covenant agreement that it could not be used for multifamily homes, a pool hall, an auto shop and fast food, the latter two uses have been built there.

Woods said the site's owner has expressed interest in reaching out to the community to see what people want there.

"I am not really a fan of an apartment idea down there," Woods said, but noted an apartment concept would involve buildings of several stories with elevators, which would be upscale housing.

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The site is owned by Lstar Fallston Mall Holding Company LLC., whose address is listed at Hudson Americas in Dallas, according to online property records. The limited liability corporation bought it from JMJ Fallston Properties LLC in 2013 for $2.2 million, according to the records. Repeated attempts to reach company representatives were unsuccessful.

Redevelopment could be tricky, as the proximity of some newer retail seems to have worsened the Fallston Mall's prospects.

A gleaming Walmart opened just down the street. CVS, formerly next to Harvest Fare, moved catty-corner to the new Aumar Village, with easier access to the busy intersection.

Fallston Nails moved out of the mall more than a year ago, its sign still on the door. Only two businesses seem to still be operating behind Harvest Fare: Swing Time Ballroom and Hair Remedy Barber & Styling.

Several people shopping at Harvest Fare recently said anything would be better than what's there. They also said the pothole-filled parking lots in the center are a big problem.

"It looks like a junk shop," Mel Lang, who lives by the shopping center, said. He said he would like to see "just something decent."

He was with Joan Lang, who noted they have lived in the area 50 years and remember when the mall had nice stores, like a gift shop.

Joan Lang said it has been going downhill for at least 10 years.

"The people who have had it the last 10 years have done nothing to it," Mel Lang added. "Any kind of improvements would help."

Woods said the idea of a grocery store has also come up, but grocery stores rely on road frontage, of which the shopping center has little.

The footprint is also not quite big enough for a "big-box"-type store, and "there's a lot of water issues to deal with," he noted.

A mixed-use, office and housing development has also been suggested.

Andrew Tress, County Council President Billy Boniface's legislative aide, said retail would be "perfect" at the site.

Woods does not support tax-increment financing, he said, but he may be willing to consider such a deal for the Fallston Mall site, if it addressed the site's decrepit structure, which he said is unlikely to happen.

"If there's some thing we could do county-wise to fix that whole corridor, I'm all for it," Woods said.

Beth Poggioli, of the Greater Fallston Association, said residents have also been asked for their ideas.

"GFA was asked for general input as to what would the community like to see there," Poggioli said via an online message, adding she did not know the status or ownership of the mall.

Jim Richardson, Harford County's economic development director, noted the site was sold within the past few months.

"We have worked with several interested parties that have had some good ideas and certainly the county has supported any redevelopment," Richardson said.

"We are trying very hard to merge the front parcels and that back parcel just to make a better development envelope," he said.

The front building, behind a re-opened Burger King and closest to street access, houses Agile Automotive Performance.

"It's certainly something we, the county, would encourage," Richardson said about a rebuilt Fallston Mall.

He admitted that the distance from the road is a major barrier. The mall has one horizontal sign listing its four major tenants on Belair Road, while Harvest Fare and Ace Hardware have flags and a sign on Mountain Road.

"Access is a problem, and we've got to solve the access problem," Richardson said.

He also agreed with Woods that a supermarket, or similar stores, are unlikely to consider the mall unless it looks substantially different.

"I don't think it's going to be a good site under its current configuration for retail," he said. "There's still unresolved issues with the floodplain."

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