$34 million retail center is planned


Nottingham Properties Inc. is in the final stages of planning a $34 million shopping center in White Marsh oriented to discount retailers, only the third such project slated for the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The 375,000-square-foot Nottingham Square retail center is a reaction to changing consumer habits nationwide, in an era when many shoppers have eschewed traditional outlets such as regional malls in favor of value-dominated centers.

"We believe this will increase the attractiveness of the whole area," said J. Joseph Credit, vice president of commercial development for Nottingham, the master developer of the 1,500-acre White Marsh area. "Retailers today group together because they know that shoppers are drawn to locations with multiple stores, and this is our effort to respond to that trend."

Nottingham intends to begin work on the 40-acre project next month and have the first phase open in the fall of 1995.

Although no tenants have committed to the project thus far, Nottingham is in serious discussions with three major discounters interested in purchasing land for stores, Mr. Credit said.

The potential tenants include Best Buy Co., the Minneapolis-based consumer electronics and appliance discounter that intends to open as many as 14 stores in the Baltimore-Washington region, Marshall's Department Store and Service Merchandise Inc. The company is also negotiating with Incredible Universe, a Tandy Corp. company based in Fort Worth, Texas; Target Stores Inc. and others willing to locate in Baltimore County, sources familiar with the planned center said.

In all, the so-called "power center," the industry's term for a large-scale project developed exclusively with big discount stores in mind, could create as many as 400 jobs.

Nottingham Square will be the fourth shopping center in White Marsh, joining two community retail hubs and the Rouse Co.'s 1.3 million-square-foot White Marsh Mall. The project also will mark the second development east of Interstate 95 in White Marsh, in the wake of Time Warner Inc.'s decision in April to develop a $37 million distribution center there. The 700,000-square-foot project is under construction.

"We're relying on the impact of the mall, the established business community and the residential community there to stimulate business at Nottingham Square," said Tom Maddux, a KLNB Inc. associate whose firm is representing Nottingham in the marketing of the project. "And in Baltimore, there really aren't a lot of classic power centers, so we're hoping the lack of competition on this side of town will help considerably."

Rouse premiered its own power center in July 1993 in Columbia. Its $45 million Snowden Square center contains BJ's Wholesale Club, Hechinger, Marshall's, Service Merchandise and Best Buy, among others.

Since opening, the 500,000-square-foot center on 54 acres has produced some of the highest sales of any new location for its tenants. Both BJ's Wholesale Club and Service Merchandise reported their Snowden Square stores ranked as the second-largest performers in their chains last year. At the same time, the center hasn't had an adverse impacted on sales in the nearby Mall in Columbia, Rouse says.

"We've found that Snowden Square also solidifies Columbia's position as a retail center in the Baltimore/Washington corridor," said Ed Ely, Rouse's vice president of land sales and marketing.

The other power center in the area is the Price Club Plaza in Glen Burnie, although various retail landlords along the U.S. 40 -- corridor in western Baltimore County have begun filling centers with discounters.

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