- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Authorities closed indefinitely a large part of a two-story parking garage at Laurel Mall on Route 1 after chunks of concrete fell from the garage’s ceiling Tuesday night.

No one was hurt when the concrete fell at about 8 p.m. from an area in the northeast corner of the garage facing Route 1, near the ramp to the second level.

Chunks of debris, the largest of which was just smaller than a fist, remained in the garage yesterday afternoon.

Reporters who gathered near the parking garage were asked to leave. Mall officials referred calls to specialty leasing manager Joyce Abdallah, who did not return a phone message.

The 90-store mall, anchored by Hecht’s, Burlington Coat Factory and International Furniture, has two parking garages. A garage in the rear of the mall facing Fourth Street remained open.

At the garage facing Route 1, authorities closed off the upper level and the lower level around the two ramps that lead to the upper level.

One of the entrances from Route 1 to the parking garage was closed, as was the main mall entrance facing the Route 1 parking garage.

It was the second time this year that such an incident had occurred at the mall.

A walkway connecting the mall and the upper level of the garage facing Fourth Street collapsed at about 11:15 p.m. June 30. No one was injured. Two trucks in a delivery area located below the walkway were damaged.

Police attributed the collapse to age and wear, saying that some rusted steel bolts gave way. The mall, which was built in 1979, was closed for two days after that incident. The walkway has not been rebuilt.

Last week, a Prince George’s County judge approved the sale of the mall to California-based Somera Capital Management for $31 million. The mall fell into receivership in February after defaulting on debts of more than $60 million.

Laurel officials have expressed a desire to have the mall razed and replaced with a mixed-use housing, retail and office space development. However, Somera has announced plans for a two- to three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation of the mall.

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