Let there be no confusion: The Rouse Co.'s planned 73-acre shopping center on Route 175 in Columbia is no Holy Grail -- and never was intended to be, according to a top company executive.
"It's not 'Chalice' anymore," said Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president and general manager, referring to the goblet-shaped property between Dobbin Road and Snowden River Parkway.
Rouse planners originally adopted the "Chalice" name because of the property's shape and not for any religious reason, Mr. Scavo said.
However, after complaints that the name is offensive, the company has dropped it, Mr. Scavo said.
"It was suggested that there was a possible religious connotation, which was not our intent," he said.
The Holy Grail, sought by knights during the Crusades, was the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper, according to medieval legend.
The new working name for the project, Route 175 Commercial, may lack the ring of the old one, but it's not expected to raise any eyebrows.
When the project is closer to opening in early 1997, the company will give the center a permanent name, Mr. Scavo said.
The proposed $45 million retail hub will be Columbia's second giant warehouse-style retail complex. It will join Snowden Square, which is less than a mile southwest on Snowden River Parkway and which opened in 1993.
Even with a more mundane name, the Route 175 center is attracting national retail chains.
Besides a Target discount department store set to open in early 1997, the Rouse Co. recently signed Dick's Clothing & Sporting Goods to build a store.
Mr. Scavo said the 60,000-square-foot Dick's store probably would open within a few months of the 125,000-square-foot Target store. Dick's, a Coraopolis, Pa., chain, recently opened stores in White Marsh, Hunt Valley and Glen Burnie.
Target, which has its headquarters in Minneapolis, has 674 stores in 33 states but currently has none in Maryland. The chain expressed interest this summer in locating at Long Gate Parkway, another large-scale shopping center planned at U.S. 29 and Route 100 in Ellicott City.
Rouse has no other contracts signed for its Route 175 project, but "we're looking at a whole series of retailers," Mr. Scavo said.
He would not name any potential clients, although he confirmed discussions with Bob's Stores, a casual wear and footwear chain based in Meriden, Conn.
Susan B. Anderson of Hicks and Rotner, a real estate brokerage representing Bob's, said the chain is "in no way shape or form committed to the Chalice site."
The Bob's chain, whose stores usually are 40,000 to 50,000 square feet, has considered the Route 175 and Ellicott City sites among several others in the Baltimore-Washington area, she said.
It already has announced plans to open stores in Gaithersburg and Seven Corners, Va.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Richard R. Rodes, one of those who had found the Chalice name offensive, praised the Rouse Co. for the decision to change it.
"I give them credit for waking up to sensitivity to the public," he said.
The chalice is sacred to several religions, said Mr. Rodes, a retired Unitarian cleric.
For instance, he said, Unitarians light candles from a flaming chalice every Sunday.