- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Westfield Annapolis shopping center is scheduled to begin its planned $100 million expansion today that will make it the largest shopping center in Anne Arundel County.

The 240,000-square-foot expansion will allow space for 60 new retailers, two small anchors and restaurants.

Williams-Sonoma has signed on to expand to an 8,000-square-foot space. J. Crew, In Salon day spa and Paiva, an upscale women’s fitness clothing store, also have signed leases. General manager Carol Fearns said the shopping center is hoping to land a home-furnishing store there, too.

Those retailers attract high-income shoppers, a group targeted in the expansion, Ms. Fearns said. The average household income of Westfield Annapolis shoppers is $92,000.

The expansion essentially doubles the row of retailers between Nordstrom and Hecht’s, which will be converted to Macy’s in September. Three new parking structures will add 1,000 spaces.

The center’s interior also will be upgraded with new tiling, sidewalks and landscaping to give it a “main street” look.

Shopping centers across the country have been remodeled to feel more like a main street, with large walkways, landscaping, entrances from both outside and inside the mall and restaurants with “outdoor” seating in the mall corridors. In the Washington area, Tysons Corner Center’s recent addition took the town center approach.

Developers have spent more money on improving existing centers instead of building new ones, said Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“In 2005, that was really the focus — redeveloping and expanding their existing projects — and that’s certainly carried forward into 2006,” Mrs. Duker said. “They’re making the properties they have now even more productive than they have in the past.”

Westfield recently finished a similar $140 million expansion of its shopping center in Wheaton.

Westfield has been trying to expand the Annapolis mall since 2004. Two proposals were rejected because the plans did not take traffic concerns into consideration.

The proposals included Dick’s Sporting Goods and Crate & Barrel, which have since left the project.

“Whenever you submit plans, you have to give an idea of what [retailers] will be there,” Ms. Fearns said.

“We’ve done some market research and perhaps the marketing researchers felt going in a different direction was the best way to go.”

Previous plans placed the new shops spread out around the shopping center, which would boost traffic at the Jennifer Road and Generals Highway entrances, which already handle the most traffic.

The current plan places the new stores closest to the less-used Bestgate Road entrances, which will spread traffic more evenly around the center, Ms. Fearns said, even during the holidays.

“We expect that the holidays will be busy, but the flow of the exits and entrances will be very balanced and easy to get in and out from all sides,” she said.

Ms. Fearns says the expansion is not a reaction to the Annapolis Town Center at Parole, a project under construction a mile away that will include 600,000 square feet of retail, in addition to office, residential and hotel space.

“Really, we haven’t been that involved in watching that project,” Ms. Fearns said. “We want to make improvements to ourselves to make sure there’s always going to be opportunities for customers.”

The expansion will make Westfield Annapolis, at 1.5 million square feet, the largest shopping center in the county. The title used to belong to the 1.3-million-square-foot Arundel Mills Mall.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in fall 2007.



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