The closing of the interior doors of the Owings Mills Mall means many things to a community that has long considered the site an eyesore. To some, it paves the way for redevelopment that has long been in the pipeline. To others, it serves as the long overdue obituary to a mall that has been dead for more than a decade.
For Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, it means the mall, once the area’s premiere shopping destination, has a future.
“We’re just really excited that we’re on the same page [with developers], and we see a lot of movement taking place,” he said. “I’ve made myself available to meet with any of the retailers to sell them on how great the area is.”
With shovels in the ground at Foundry Row, which will be home to a Wegmans grocery store set to open next fall, and most of that project leased, Kamenetz is hopeful that the public will now see some development at the mall.
The interior doors closed in late September, and Macy’s announced it would be closing this month. Kamenentz said Kimco has acquired the Macy’s property as well as the majority of the mall from General Growth Properties, which was Kimco’s partner on the project. While a J.C. Penney spokesman said the company does not plan to close its Owings Mills store, Kimco is in acquisition talks with the retailer, according to Kamenetz. Baltimore County District 4 Councilman Julian Jones expects to hear from Kimco about the fate of J.C. Penney in January.
There’s millions and millions of dollars being invested in our community.
“It’s very important that Kimco asks the community for input in terms of which stores they would like to see and what would bring them back to the mall before determining the next steps,” he said.
Freedman added that the mall building, while empty, has sentimental value for people who grew up with it.
“Many people have also created memories here, so there are many people who do not want to see it demolished,” he said.
There has been a growing sense of discontent among some residents who have become concerned with the changing demographics of the region surrounding the mall, something Chabad of Owings Mills’ Rabbi Nachum Katsenelenbogen said he hears from his congregants.
“Some people are concerned that they’re going to put up a lot of residential buildings there,” he said. “They’re afraid that if 1,500 or 2,000 apartments go up and they’re not Jewish people, the percentage of Jews could go down.”
Katsenelenbogen, who was quick to note that he was not speaking for himself, said the perception among many he knows is that an influx of residents could form a barrier between the “Jewish section” and “not-so-Jewish section,” as has been the case with the intersection of Park Heights Avenue and Northern Parkway.
We’re just really excited that we’re on the same page [with developers], and we see a lot of movement taking place.
Jones is excited to see some activity at the mall and thinks Owings Mills has a bright future. He said Kimco’s new plans, which have several renditions, are similar in scope to the original plans.
“There’s millions and millions of dollars being invested in our community,” he said.
Meanwhile, activity at the eventual site of Foundry Row has flourished, with construction having begun on its centerpiece store, Wegmans. Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for Wegmans, confirmed that the store is set to open in the late summer of 2016 with employee recruiting set to begin early next year.
Wegmans currently has a location in Hunt Valley Towne Center, and Natale said Owings Mills is a promising community due to its population density.
“We look for the same criteria no matter the site,” she said. “We only open three or four new stores each year, and because the pace of our growth is very measured, we tend to be very selective.”
Baltimore County will be the only county in Maryland with two Wegmans stores, Kamenetz said.
The Metro Centre at Owings Mills has also made a splash with six retailers open and a seventh on the way, 85 percent leasing in the first of two luxury apartment buildings and a four-story, 200,000-square-foot office and retail building under construction with an expected completion in summer 2016. The site is also home to the County Campus Building, which houses a branch of the Community College of Baltimore County and the county’s largest public library branch.