The developer of Towson Town Center said the company knew it had to create something spectacular to lure shoppers to the mall.
So, one of the goals of the $150 million expansion and renovation project was to create a grandeur without parallel in an area already saturated with shopping experiences.
In order to outstrip the competitors, such as Owings Mills Mall, a fete of mall architecture was what the Towson Town Center developer, Hahn Co., of San Diego, wanted.
"We were after the highest quality shopping center we could get in the Baltimore area," said Hahn Co. vice president Walter Finley. "We looked around and we saw a lot of competition, and we wanted to go in and compete."
What the Hahn Co. got was an expanded center whose openness and scale matches that of a huge conservatory.
The architectural theme includes interpretations of classical 0' designs, including glass-paned domes, barrel-vaulted skylights and mammoth columns.
The mall project began in February 1990 and is scheduled to open to the general public Oct. 16.
The newest portion of the mall, a 600,000-square-foot retail area, expected to be the show-stopper. Inspired by European formal gardens, some of its features include:
* A glass rotunda that is 104 feet in diameter and ringed at its base by windows with gold grilles. Behind each grille will be fiber-optic tubes emitting an array of pastel colors, changing at 20-minute intervals.
* Several fountains in various courtyards and a central elevator encircled by a waterfall.
* Two wrought-iron statues -- one of Pan, the god of fields and forest of Greek mythology, and the other of Pegasus, the winged horse. Painted to resemble the greenish-blue patina of aged copper, both statues will be hoisted upon pedestals 16 feet into the air.
* What designers hope will be a giant working sundial on the floor of one courtyard. A gold-colored ball and star mounted high above the dial is expected to cast shadows and mark the time of day.
* Approximately 113 palm trees (16 of which will be 40 feet high and weigh as much as 2 tons each), 3,080 green plants and 731 flowering plants.
RTKL Associates Inc., which also designed the Owings Mills mall, is the architect for the Towson Town Center expansion.
Ray Peloquin, RTKL's lead architect for Towson Town Center, said the firm set out to design a mall that at least matched the Owings Mills project in quality and impact, and hoped that it did it one better.
"We wanted to create a space where people will want to come to stay," Peloquin said.
While classical in nature, the design does not incorporate expensive materials such as limestone, marble and granite. The impressive columns and store facades are made of a Fiberglas and gypsum material that has been pre-molded and painted white, Peloquin said.
The overall design task was considered a formidable one: to link the mall's existing, 1950s-version shopping center with a stand-alone Hecht Co. store and a Nordstrom's department store that is under construction and scheduled to open in fall 1992.
Add to that task the problem of creating 4,360 parking spaces in the limited amount of space available on the 30-acre parcel at the corner of Joppa Road and Fairmont Avenue.
When finished, the center will have three six-level parking garages wrapping the building and 739 surface parking spaces. The developer promises that no customer will have to walk more than 200 yards from a parking space to an entrance.