The first stores in Towne Centre at Laurel will open their doors this spring, marking the beginning of the end of years of work and months of construction.
Thomas Fitzpatrick, president and chief operating officer of developer Greenberg Gibbons, came before the Laurel City Council Monday to update the city on opening dates and new stores in the $110-million project that he said could bring upward of 1,500 new jobs to the area — not counting the nearly 1,000 construction jobs in the building of the centre.
"This is a great example of redevelopment that really works," Fitzpatrick said after his presentation. "It's a redevelopment of a great piece of real estate in a format that's much more relevant to the city today. We feel like the city of Laurel deserves something like this."
The first store to open its doors is one of the last bastions of the old Laurel Mall: Burlington Coat Factory. Fitzpatrick said the new 70,000-square-foot store would have a soft opening March 24, and then a grand opening March 28.
With work 90 to 95 percent done on Phase 1, Fitzpatrick said the center was about 85 percent leased. He announced 14 new retailers that will open as part of Phase 2 this fall, including the first B.J.'s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Maryland, an Outback Steakhouse, Old Navy, a Panera Bread with a drive-through window, Express Urgent Care, Kay Jewelers, Tutti Frutti, Massage Envy, BurgerFi, Blaze Pizza, Subway, street wear store DTLR, Noodle and Company and Party City.
Other stores joining those 14 in Phase 2 include Sports Authority and the first Harris Teeter in the county. Harris Teeter will open in September. Fitzpatrick said Panera's opening may precede Harris Teeter, and Panera could be open in the early summer. He said he was confident all the stores would be open by September.
Regal Cinemas will be the last to open, Fitzpatrick said, with the 12-screen, 2,000-seat movie theater having a target opening date of Nov. 14.
Fitzpatrick delivered his presentation to the City Council two days after a shooter opened fire in the Mall in Columbia, killing two people before taking his own life.
At Towne Centre of Laurel, Fitzpatrick said there would be a "state of the art" camera system in place and the developers would work with merchants and Laurel and Prince George's County police departments to maintain security.
'Tough project to get started'
A new traffic light will allow entrance to the parking area from Cherry Lane, and a parcel of land along Fourth Street and Cherry Lane will likely become a 300-unit apartment complex in the future. Greenberg and Gibbons is in the process of marketing it to other developers, Fitzpatrick said.
"We're very excited," Gibbons said. "It's hard to believe it was Aug. 14, 2012 we had our groundbreaking. It's exciting to announce the amount of progress we've had."
"I know this project has been on the minds of many for a long time, many years," Mayor Craig Moe said. "When Greenberg Gibbons came in, they said they were going to do something with that property and they've done it. Is it everything everyone wants? Probably not. But it's a piece of real estate that we've always said is important to the city."
The redevelopment of the former Laurel Mall was "a tough project to get started," Moe said.
Laurel Mall, which opened in 1979, closed its doors in 2012 but had been in decline for several years prior as retailers left and the mall sank into debt. AEW and Somera bought the mall in 2006 for $31 million with promises of redevelopment, but the recession and tax issues stalled that project. Greenberg Gibbons came on board in 2011 to redevelop the mall.
Moe said he was "very happy" with Greenberg Gibbons' work.
Council members also expressed excitement at the project's progress.
"As you know, no matter where you go in the city and what kind of environment, the conversation always turns to the Towne Centre at Laurel," Ward 1 Council member Ed Ricks said.
Council president Fred Smalls, of Ward 2, said the project has "captured the attention of young and old, across all demographics in the city area. Everyone is really excited about this."
This story has been updated.