Tenants move swiftly to sign up at Riverside shopping center

When it comes to construction of a new shopping center, building exactly what is needed looks like a sure winner in Riverside.

The planned community's first shopping center, scheduled to open this fall, is 94 percent leased.


Paul Gilbert, president of BLC Properties Inc., which developed the $8 million project, credits the shopping center's tenant appeal to its practical approach.

He said the 86,500-square-foot strip shopping center, at Riverside Parkway and Route 7, was built to meet the shopping needs of nearby residential communities: a grocery store, drug store, video rental store, dry cleaners and other convenience stores.


A freestanding McDonald's and Forest Hill Bank are also being built.

There are no big-ticket shops, such as furniture stores or appliance shops, and no specialty retailers, like apparel or shoe stores, he said.

"If you look at what is happening in commercial construction now, banks are not funding business loans as easily as they have in the past. We are not doing anything on speculation," he said.

Andrew Klein, a vice president for Klein's Super Thrift Markets, agrees. "The secret to a successful retail project now is to build only what you know you can lease."

On the other hand, Mr. Klein said there has never been a better time to build because construction costs are low.

A prime rate, hovering around 6 percent, means loans are cheaper -- even if they are tougher to qualify for, he said.

Klein's, which will manage the site through the Riverside Parkway Limited Partnership, is building a 51,000-square-foot grocery store that will anchor the shopping center. Klein's real estate arm, Collgate Investments, also manages Beards Hill Plaza in Aberdeen.

The Riverside Klein's is the family owned chain's fifth grocery store. The business has been operating in Harford County since the 1920s, Mr. Klein said.


Currently, residents of the 1,700 households in Riverside must drive about seven miles to the nearest grocery store or shopping center in either Aberdeen, Bel Air or Edgewood.

Mr. Gilbert, the developer, said the shopping center expects to draw customers from 17,000 households, including Riverside and other new developments such as nearby Philadelphia Station and Hidden Stream, which is under construction.

Residents of more established neighborhoods, such as Perryman, are also expected to patronize the center. In addition, about 1,600 people are employed in the Riverside Industrial Park and many of them are expected to be occasional users.

The shopping center will create at least 300 jobs, Mr. Gilbert said. Klein's, which will employ about 100 people, has already had applicants, Mr. Klein said.

More jobs will be created when the shopping center expands by 18,000 square feet, he said.

He said that construction on the expansion could begin in 18 months. The shopping center is negotiating with a family style restaurant for at least part of that space.


Other eating establishments planned for the shopping center include a Chinese restaurant, and a sub-and-pizza place.

Mr. Klein said he sees McDonald's as the shopping center's "stamp of approval" because of the fast-food chain's reputation for building only in growing, busy locations.