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Landmark Kunkel building in Bel Air to be redeveloped as multi-use retail center

The iconic former Kunkel Service Co. building on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air will be redeveloped into a mixed-use retail center. The successor to the 95-year-old business moved to Forest Hill in October.
The iconic former Kunkel Service Co. building on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air will be redeveloped into a mixed-use retail center. The successor to the 95-year-old business moved to Forest Hill in October. (ALLAN VOUGHT | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

The building at 331 Baltimore Pike in Bel Air, the longtime home of The Kunkel Service Co. auto parts store and machine shop, is slated to be redeveloped as a multi-use retail center along Bel Air's heavily-traveled Route 1 corridor.

"There are very few places along Baltimore Pike that offer the visibility and frontage that 331 Baltimore Pike offers," Mike Ruocco, a commercial real estate broker with JLL, of Baltimore, said in a phone interview last week.

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The site also affords "signage opportunities," Ruocco said.

"It will be a great location from a visibility standpoint to attract patrons to their businesses," he said.

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A rendering of what the former Kunkel Service Co. building on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air will look like once it has been redeveloped.
A rendering of what the former Kunkel Service Co. building on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air will look like once it has been redeveloped. (Courtesy JLL Retail / Provided graphic)

JLL, a commercial real estate firm, is handling the leasing and marketing of the site, according to Ruocco. The most recent tenant, Auto Plus, which specializes in auto parts and service, has moved to Forest Hill, he said.

The current owner of the building, which dates to 1954, is listed as 331 Bel Air LLC, of Towson, according to online state tax records. The late Gerard F. Kunkel managed his family's auto parts business, which included 15 stores, for 48 years, according to the book "Legendary Locals of Bel Air," by Carol Deibel and Kathi Santora.

The 32,000 square-foot building would be subdivided into suites for multiple retail tenants, according to Ruocco. It is in the vicinity of Bel Air High School, and the site is bordered by an AutoZone auto parts store and a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store.

The site is about a third of a mile west of the intersection of Main Street and Churchville Road, the entrance to downtown Bel Air. Looney's Pub is near that intersection. Major shopping centers, including Harford Mall, the Bel Air Town Center and the Bel Air Plaza are short distance west of the former Kunkel building.

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Sunny Day Cafe and Independent Brewing Company were honored when the Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Economic & Community Development Commission held its annual Business of the Year and Archer-Bull Design Awards banquet on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 at Rockfield Manor in Bel Air.

"We really feel that Bel Air and Harford County are growing markets," Ruocco said. "Retail options are increasing, and people want more and more places to go to eat and to shop."

Ruocco said about 6,000 to 10,000 square feet along the Baltimore Pike side will be open to traditional retail businesses such as shops and restaurants, while the space in the north side of the building would be "flex retail space."

He said it could be used for tenants such as medical offices, kitchen remodelers, fitness centers or a children's entertainment center with trampolines or bounce houses.

Harford County government is seeking "expressions of interest" from prospective developers or purchasers to redevelop a 2.5-acre property in downtown Bel Air.

"We have a lot of different-sized options for different needs," Ruocco said of the tenant spaces.

The exterior will be renovated as well, with new facades on the north and west sides.

"We plan on completely refacing the building," Ruocco said.

He said a preliminary site plan has been approved by the Bel Air Planning Commission, and construction is scheduled to start in December. Developers hope to have the building ready by the second quarter of 2017.

He said JLL is "actively negotiating with multiple tenants right now."

"It's exciting to be able to bring new retail options to Harford County and Bel Air," Ruocco said.

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