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Mondawmin makeover Mall: The Rouse Co. plans to expand 42-year-old Mondawmin Mall with department stores, restaurants and entertainment, matching the features of its suburban malls.; Retail

The Rouse Co. is planning an expansion of the Mondawmin Mall that it hopes will generate the same excitement for city residents that malls like Owings Mills and Columbia have for suburban residents.

The company said it plans to add two department stores, family restaurants, more national retail chains and entertainment to the mix of small retail stores at the 42-year-old mall.

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While Rouse executives said they are talking to numerous national retailers about the possibility of opening stores in Mondawmin, they don't expect to make any contract announcements until next year.

"I think the people in Northwest Baltimore will be very excited," said Anthony Hawkins, a Rouse vice president and group director.

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Rouse already is planning to add a 60,000-square-foot Giant Food store to anchor one end of the facility. In addition, Rite Aid Corp. is expanding by 2,400 square feet.

Hawkins would neither deny nor confirm speculation that Rouse is in talks with Sears Roebuck & Co., the Disney Store and Magic Johnson Theatres, which announced last year that it hopes to open a 12-screen complex in the Baltimore area.

Other additions would likely include home furnishings, electronics and furniture.

"We certainly have a huge vacuum. There are no family restaurants there and no real entertainment," Hawkins said. The only restaurants that would not be considered are fast-food outlets, he said, because customers have indicated opposition to more of them.

"What we are trying to do is offer a much broader selection of goods and services -- what you would expect to get in any suburban area in the United States," he said.

That is exactly what shopper Arnette Jackson of Baltimore said is missing from the mall. "It is a mall, but it is not really a mall," she said. "They just need more selection of everything."

Opened in 1955, Mondawmin has undergone several incarnations. Today, it is 92 percent leased, doing high volumes in sales, according to Rouse and others. But it has only a handful of national merchants, including Footlocker, Payless Shoes and Lerner, and unlike most malls, lacks an anchor.

Most retailers are small, locally owned stores.

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"The mall has improved a lot since I have been here," said Yvonne Walker, who began working at the mall 16 years ago and now owns two stores, including an Edy's Ice Cream and a check cashing store, American Eagle. "The security they have here is very good. I would put it up against any mall. The traffic is up and people don't act like they are afraid to come here anymore."

Some real estate sources said Rouse may have difficulty attracting national retailers despite the mall's volume, because most retailers have concentrated their stores in suburban malls.

While a department store such as Hecht's would probably do well in Mondawmin, it could also come at the expense of the chain's other stores in the area, said Rene Daniel, president of the Daniel Group, a Baltimore-based retail consultanting firm.

"Mondawmin doesn't have any competition. It is surrounded by the same customer base that has been there for 20 years. Does it need to be redeveloped? Sure, just as any old center does," said Tom Maddux, a principal with KLNB Inc., a commercial real estate company.

"The good news is that Rouse owns it, and has the expertise and the money and the commitment to do it properly," he said.

Pub Date: 6/03/97


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