Retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will open a new store in a former Kmart in Columbia's Dobbin Center, a move that real estate observers say will help revitalize the aging center.
The announcement comes almost a year after Kmart Corp. announced that it was closing the 108,000-square-foot store along Little Patuxent Parkway as part of a major downsizing. A spokesman for Wal-Mart, which has no store in Columbia, said the store will provide about 200 jobs. Local observers say it also will draw more shoppers and other retailers.
Renovations are expected to begin soon, and the Wal-Mart could open early next year, Keith Morris, a community affairs director for Wal-Mart, said yesterday. The company is planning to spend $2.5 million to $3 million.
"We're going to make modifications architecturally," Morris said. "The entrance is going to be the most visible modification."
Wal-Mart has 32 stores in Maryland and 2,400 across the country. The building is a little larger than the average Wal-Mart - now at 95,000 square feet - but Morris said it was a good fit.
"We had looked for some time on the market," he said. "Based on the location and square footage, it was a great opportunity for us we didn't want to pass by."
The retailer will be a welcome addition to Dobbin Center, which has struggled for several years in the shadow of the Columbia Crossing shopping center.
Dobbin Center had already lost one anchor, a 65,200-square- foot Upton's, in 1993. When Kmart closed in March, it seemed to spell doom for the 17-year-old center.
But Kevin Allen, a spokesman for Kimco Realty Corp., which owns the center, said Wal-Mart was among the first retailers to start talks after Kmart announced the closing.
"Wal-Mart stepped up and showed the most interest," he said. "Things are looking good at Dobbin. Dobbin is in good shape. Shortly it's going to be even better."
Allen said his company may also consider renovations to the center overall, but that there are no plans yet.
Commercial broker Bob Morris said Wal-Mart will help draw others to the area, and possibly a second anchor to fill the former Upton's building.
"Since Wal-Mart has announced, there's been a lot of interest in that space," Morris said.