County zoning action called 'first step' in mall renewal; Chatham Mall receives setback-variance OK


The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has approved a minor variance request that could lead to the redevelopment of Chatham Mall in Ellicott City, one of the oldest shopping centers in the county.

The department agreed Fridayto allow Chatham Mall Co. LLP to reduce the required 100-foot setback from a public street right of way to 80 feet for two freestanding buildings totaling almost 151,000 square feet.

The approval paves the way for the company to build a 14,820-square-foot building between the Giant and Kmart stores and a 136,000-square-foot building where Caldor is now.

Caldor has declared bankruptcy and plans to close all eight Baltimore-area stores by mid-May.

Natalie Swirdovich, manager and marketing director of Chatham Mall, said company officials were pleased with the department's decision.

"This is just one of the many steps toward redevelopment, but it's the first step," she said, adding that the mall is no closer to signing a major tenant or announcing a timetable for construction. "I would love to get some more information out there because I think it will be great, but I don't have anything to tell you."

Built in 1974, Chatham Mall, in the 9200 block of U.S. 40, was one of the county's first shopping plazas. But the building's outdated enclosed-mall structure and shoppers' negative perceptions caused a vacancy rate that grew from 4 percent in 1992 to 70 percent today.

Pub Date: 2/18/99

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