1st new stores set to open at Hunt Valley

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The developers of Hunt Valley Towne Centre said yesterday that they have signed nearly two dozen new tenants and that the first stores and restaurants will begin opening at the end of the month.

Greenberg Commercial, which is redeveloping the center from a depressed enclosed mall to an open-air "Main Street" style market, said the new tenants have leased 90,000 square feet and include national chains and well-known local companies.

The first stores will open this month in four free-standing buildings near the front of the mall that Greenberg calls the "fast, casual restaurant corridor."

Tenants, some of which will open later this spring and summer, include Caribou Coffee, Carmine's Italian restaurant, Cingular Wireless, Chipotle Mexican restaurant, EB Games, Gelato Factory, Calvert Wine & Spirits, Quiznos, Panera Bread, and Noodles & Co.

Wegmans Food Market Inc., a gourmet supermarket chain based in Rochester, N.Y., is expected to open a store in August, Greenberg said. Greetings & Readings, one of Maryland's largest independent bookstores, announced this summer that it would open a 28,500-square-foot store at the center.

At least half of the mall should be open May 1, said Brian Gibbons, president and chief executive officer at Greenberg. The rest of the center should open by August, with Wegmans in the middle of the month. The site is more than 85 percent leased.

"Wegmans construction is doing great," Gibbons said. "But good service is very important to them. They'll spend three months training 600 to 700 employees." The grocer typically ranks among top employers in national surveys. It opened a store in Northern Virginia last year.

Hunt Valley Mall's existing tenants include Sears, Dick's Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Burlington Coat Factory, DSW shoe store, Regal Cinema, Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Since it opened 22 years ago, Hunt Valley has struggled in spite of being in a relatively affluent, if not densely populated, residential area. The closing of Macy's as an anchor in 1992 spurred an exodus of other stores. Two other developers tried to transform Hunt Valley Mall but never followed through on plans.

The current remake will include 980,000 square feet of space, with about 260,000 square feet in the open air "Main Street" style portion. Tenants scheduled to move into that area include three apparel stores: women's clothing store Coldwater Creek, men's clothier Jos. A. Bank and Ann Taylor Loft, a discounted upscale women's store.

Several full-service restaurants have also signed leases: Cheeburger Cheeburger, a 1950s-style burger and malt shop; Damon's Sports Theater, Greystone Grille and Jesse Wong's Open Kitchen.

The center, off Shawan Road, also will house an eyewear store, salon, spa, shoe store, florist and craft gallery. Greenberg is also negotiating leases with at least three other clothing retailers.

Greenberg is developing the mall in partnership with the real estate investment arm of Prudential Financial Inc.

The company said that more than 1 million consumers live within 15 miles of the mall and have an average household income exceeding $140,000. The mall will also be a short drive from competitors in Towson and White Marsh.

Gibbons said he expects a "spectacular" lunch business because it is surrounded by 7 million square feet of office space and five hotels.

"It's a different destination," he said of Hunt Valley. "This will provide a much better, less congested entertainment venue."

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