Twenty-two months after construction began on the Mall in Columbia's open-air plaza expansion, the new 70,000 square-foot wing was christened Thursday, signaling the official grand opening of the space.
Eleven of the 12 tenants have already opened in the plaza, the first wave coming last fall. The final tenant, lou lou boutique, is set to open on Oct. 31.
The development creates a streetscape-style plaza with storefronts and public art on the mall's west side. The plaza connects the mall's interior to the restaurant promenade, which includes the Cheesecake Factory and an AMC Theatre. Four new restaurants -- Maggiano's Little Italy, Seasons 52, Shophouse and Zoe's Kitchen -- have opened in the plaza.
The plaza also has retailers, including Anthropologie, Athleta and Talbots. The expansion was built on the former location of an L.L. Bean store.
Ashley Venable, senior general manager at the mall, said the goal of the project is to create "a vibrant social hub" for Columbia.
County Executive Ken Ulman applauded mall owners General Growth Properties for the project.
"I am so excited about the new features, stores and restaurants at The Mall in Columbia," he said in a statement. "The mall is growing and evolving, just as Columbia is, and is poised for future success."
As part of Thursday's ceremony, the mall is donating 10 percent of sales up to $5,000 to the Community Foundation of Howard County when shoppers present their receipts to Guest Services through Oct. 18.
The 12 new tenants at the open air plaza are:
- Soma Intimates
- Maggiano’s Little Italy
- Seasons 52
- Zoe’s Kitchen
- lou lou boutique
Both Ulman and Venable noted how the project fits in with the redevelopment of Columbia's Town Center. A master redevelopment plan calls for 13 million-square-feet of redevelopment to include 5,500 new residential units, 4.3 million-square-feet commercial office space, 1.25 million-square-feet of retail space, 640 hotel rooms and more.
Venable said: "It is our hope that this redeveloped area will become a 'new downtown.' And with the pedestrian friendly main street setting, public spaces with local artwork, abundant landscaping and amenities, and top-notch shopping, dining and entertainment options, we have no doubt that our shoppers and community members will find reasons to return again and again."
Ulman said: "I applaud General Growth Properties and everyone involved in this project for embracing the vision of connecting the mall to a newly vibrant downtown, and of creating spaces where the community will gather."