New retail hub planned in Columbia


Inspired by retailing trends and the success of its Snowden Square project, the Rouse Co. is working to develop a second discount-oriented shopping center in Columbia.

The estimated $45 million retail hub, proposed for the intersection of Route 175 and Dobbin Road, will be the latest effort by the development firm to capitalize on the growing acceptance of so-called "category dominant" retailers by consumers.

Rouse filed a tentative plan for the 70-acre site, which is zoned for commercial use, with Howard County earlier this month.

In all, Rouse officials predict the new center -- which it refers to as the "chalice commercial" site because of its shape as seen on a map -- could contain as much as 450,000 square feet of retail space. The company has targeted the center to open in either late 1996 or early 1997.

"There was a lot of momentum created by Snowden Square," said Edward A. Ely, a Rouse vice president and director of land sales and marketing. "And our research indicates that there is still consumer demand and stores that could add to the mix of existing retail in Columbia. If we can put together the right mix of tenants, we'll do another center."

Rouse began developing Snowden Square, a $50 million project containing roughly 500,000 square feet, in July 1992. The center's original tenants included BJ's Wholesale Club, Hechinger Co., Service Merchandise and Marshall's Department Store.

The initial phase of the project -- on land adjacent to a former General Electric Co. appliance plant -- was so successful that Rouse augmented it a year later, adding Best Buy Co., Staples, Petsmart, Borders Books and Music and several restaurants. Borders is scheduled to open in the coming days.

"Most if not all of the retailers in Snowden Square are doing substantially better than they originally projected," Mr. Ely said.

Rouse research indicates Snowden Square, on Snowden River Parkway and less than a mile from the proposed center, is easily reachable by 600,000 shoppers.

Although Mr. Ely declined to identify prospective tenants for the "chalice" project, he said various retailers have shown "significant interest" based on the success of Snowden Square.

Other sources said Rouse is believed to be negotiating with Toys 'R' Us and Target Stores Inc.

Dick's Clothing and Sporting Goods is also considering the site for a possible store, said Joseph Queri, the company's vice president of real estate.

As part of the project, Rouse also has proposed shifting Dobbin Road and connecting it with the nearby Snowden River Parkway, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning.

The new project would sit directly across from Rouse's 283,000-square-foot Dobbin Center, which contains Kmart, Upton's, Crown Books and First National Bank of Maryland.

But instead of diminishing sales there, Rouse predicts the new retail project -- its 12th in the 14,100-acre planned community -- will draw more shoppers.

"What Snowden Square has done is increased the size of the retail magnet," Mr. Ely said.

Competing landlords agreed.

"I really don't think the two will compete," said James Lee, vice president of Opus East LLC, a Bethesda development firm planning a 475,000-square-foot retail center just outside Columbia. "There are a little over four miles separating them. . . . We really have more interest than we can fit on the property. There's plenty of retail tenant demand for both Rouse and us."

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