- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Arundel Mills, still packed with shoppers well after the holidays, is gearing up for expansion and tackling the growing pains of traffic congestion and parking woes.
Officials are busy negotiating deals with possible new tenants, selling off land for further development and awaiting a new access road leading to Maryland's largest shopping center.
Business for the 1.4-million-square-foot shopping center hasn't slowed since it opened Nov. 17. It had more than 3.5 million visitors through January, meeting company expectations.
"This center has started out extremely well," said Kent Digby, executive vice president of Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp., which owns Arundel Mills and about a dozen similar projects around the country. "Everybody understands what a Mills project is. There was not a whole lot of educating or reintroducing that had to be done."
Mills also owns Potomac Mills in Dale City, Va., about 20 miles south of Washington, which has about 24 million visitors a year. Arundel Mills, about 30 miles north of Washington near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, is expected to draw an estimated 18 million people annually.
Based on how Mills projects have worked in other areas, Anne Arundel County can expect a huge return from Arundel Mills.
County officials expect Arundel Mills to generate $72 million in revenue from property, entertainment and local income taxes, and at least $18 million in revenue will go to the state each year.
Initial excitement over this destination-style shopping venue, with more than 200 stores, doesn't seem to be waning. Busy weekends make up for softer sales during the weekdays.
"It's really slow during the week," said Gina Courtalis, senior assistant manager at Ann Taylor Loft, a women's apparel store. However, weekend business has picked up considerably even after the holidays, she added.
Sales at the center's specialty shops are "very strong" with sales on pace to hit $350 per square foot annually, Mr. Digby said.
Now that Arundel Mills has three months under its belt, officials are focusing on filling vacant space and easing traffic concerns around the mall.
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is under construction and is taking up about 400 parking spaces on the property. The outdoor gear and apparel store will open in the fall. This spring, Du Claw Brewing Co. will join the list of anchors that includes Jillian's, a restaurant and entertainment venue, Egyptian-theme Muvico Theaters and retailers like Burlington Coat Factory, Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, Old Navy and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
About 89 percent of the specialty-store space inside the center is filled. A 23,000-square-foot Children's Place Outlet will open this spring.
Mills officials also are tackling growing traffic and parking problems. Sometimes cars are backed up at the main entrance off Route 100, and parking is scarce during peak shopping times.
Mr. Digby said shoppers aren't yet used to the layout of the center and don't realize other entrances and additional parking are available on the other side of the mall.
"Until people get familiar with the project, they want to immediately park and it creates congestion, and they think there's no parking," Mr. Digby said.
The center has 6,500 parking spaces and about 1,000 to 2,000 additional temporary spaces for use on Saturdays.
Five or six acres are reserved for permanent spots if needed, but officials are waiting for a new access road from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to be finished. The new road, expected to be complete this summer, will unload drivers to the other side of the center, where parking is usually available.
"The thought is when the other route opens up and the project gets more familiar, we don't think we'll have a parking issue," Mr. Digby said.
Mills Corp. owns about 130 acres surrounding Arundel Mills and plans to develop half the land and sell the remaining property to retailers and fast-food restaurants. Baltimore-based Skye Hospitality LLC has bought two three-acre parcels to build two new hotels on the property.
Despite its popularity and its eclectic tenant mix, Arundel Mills is not causing a shift in shoppers from neighboring malls. In fact, sales at area shopping centers haven't suffered at all since Arundel Mills opened.
Marley Station Shopping Center in Glen Burnie hasn't felt a competitive pinch from nearby Arundel Mills, said General Manager Charmaine Crismond. The 1.1-million-square-foot center's anchors Macy's, Hecht's, J.C. Penney and Sears are the biggest draw for shoppers.
"Our customers have shown their loyalties to the anchors, and that feeds into the specialty stores," Miss Crismond said.
Taubman Centers, which owns Marley Station, has several malls near Mills projects around the country.
"Our experience has been that everybody rushes to see the new kid on the block I'm sure some of our customers went there, too but they always come back," Miss Crismond said.
Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis, about 25 minutes from Arundel Mills, was expecting sales to level off during the holidays because of the new center's opening and the sluggish holiday season that was predicted industrywide. Instead, sales increased during the holidays and remained strong this year.
"We didn't skip a beat," said Jill Donnelly, marketing director at Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide