Frederick Towne Mall

The Frederick Towne Mall site.

The redevelopment of the Frederick Towne Mall on Frederick’s Golden Mile presents a chance to revitalize its neighborhood along West Patrick Street, although making the project work will depend on a variety factors, according to city officials and real estate experts.

The mall’s owner wants to revitalize the site, which is to be renamed District 40, and bring in tenants that can make the site a destination for people from as far as Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said Faraz Cheema, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Commercial, who represents the mall’s owner, Frederick urologist Mohammed Mohiuddin.

The first tenant, Warehouse Cinemas, has signed a lease for a 40,000-square-foot theater, which is expected to open next summer.

Other possible tenants could include go-karts, a bowling alley, a video arcade, a trampoline park, and restaurants.

What it won’t have is traditional retail like the past version of Frederick Towne Mall.

“That model doesn’t really work anymore for malls,” Cheema said.

The mall site, which closed in 2013, has long interested and frustrated prospective buyers and city officials with the amount of potential and risk it provides.

The Golden Mile Small Area Plan adopted by the city in 2013 lists the existing buildings adjacent to the mall, multiple land parcels under individual ownership, and the amount of floodplain – including existing buildings – on the property as challenges for the site. Both a Boscov’s store and a Home Depot are attached to the mall property, owned separately.

But the plan also cites the high vacancy that allows for redevelopment, the potential consumer base from the surrounding neighborhoods, and the amount of frontage on U.S. 40 as assets.

Cheema said they hope the mall’s revitalization will have a ripple effect on the surrounding neighborhood, he said.

But could the mall’s redevelopment change the nature of the surrounding neighborhood, bringing more expensive housing or raising costs for nearby retail tenants?

Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor doesn’t think so. The mayor said he doesn’t see the size and scale of the proposed project as being inconsistent with what was on the site when the mall was an active and vibrant retail hub.

The Golden Mile is a retail corridor, and that side of the city will benefit from having a property that is being utilized, he said.

“If anything, I think the commercial corridor stands to benefit,” O’Connor said.

While property values are always changed by development, O’Connor doesn’t see the mall project being a catalyst for a major change.

Any development in the area will help spur other development, said Joe Adkins, deputy director of planning for the city.

But a new golden age on the Golden Mile will take 10 to 15 years to come to fulfillment, and changes in housing prices would take decades, he said.

The mall development will help the neighborhood by giving the property an active use rather than a largely abandoned property, said Rocky Mackintosh, president and broker of MacRo Commercial Real Estate.

“Right away, that helps the situation,” he said.

While it still boasts a wide and diverse collection of businesses and dense communities of residential development, the Golden Mile neighborhood has changed from its heyday as the retail center of Frederick in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Like Adkins, Mackintosh said that won’t change overnight.

“It takes a while to rejuvenate an area that has sort of slowly slipped away,” he said.

The mall project gives the city a chance to create a gateway on the west side of town, but there needs to be transportation improvements to make it happen, said Tony Checchia, owner and broker of Verita Commercial Real Estate.

He advocates a new interchange with Interstate 70, through either the extension of McCain Drive through the planned Westside Regional Park, or at Mt. Phillip Road.

If the city is serious about revitalizing the Golden Mile, it needs to improve access to it, Checchia said.

O’Connor said any new interchange would have to be built with private money, since it isn’t in anyone’s transportation plans right now.

He said he doesn’t know if there’s any opportunity “knocking on the door,” but the city’s comprehensive plan could look at something long-term.

“That’s where every transportation idea starts,” O’Connor said.

Even before the mall project was announced, there was already residential development planned for the west end of the Golden Mile.

The Integrity Homes’ West Park development will add 285 town homes and single-family homes. Summers Farm has been trying to bring a mixed-use development to their property.

The city has a pretty good idea of what type of housing it wants in that area, Mackintosh said.

“You’ve already got an awful lot of multi-family that’s going out there,” he said.

Mackintosh said he’s wary of using terms like “gentrification,” which happens slowly over time and can be a loaded phrase depending on how it’s used.

“I don’t know what gentrification is supposed to mean sometimes,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter:

@RMarshallFNP

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(12) comments

Cowell

Tony C. makes comment that the City should consider an interchange with I70. That is a brilliant idea! Instead of the Mayor embracing idea, this article reads the notion is set aside. If the Mayor were to advocate for such an interchange the entire west side would greatly improve with easier transportation access. The Mayor should embrace and in decades to come he would be recognized for project that positively impacted the region. Think Carroll Creek project!

Tony C

Cowell, thank you... I completely agree :-)! And, I have been advocating for this for years...and will continue to do what I can to promote this interchange. 15 is a parking lot and will remain a parking lot. The West side of the City deserves and needs the same infrastructure as the East side...all it takes is the political will and vision.

KellyAlzan

This is along the lines of the weekly occurrences of tractor trailers stuck older the Monrovia railroad bridge on 75. Steve McKay put his blinders on and displays a prejudice of truck drivers and blames them, instead of embracing the fact that there is deficient warning signage regarding truck HEIGHT (not to be confused with the signs for width and length) coming north on 75 from 355.

Intelligent people can be so ignorant.

Frayou

Suggest City leaders have little interest in doing anything to focus momentum away from downtown. Especially considering it took more than 20 years until the benefits of The Carroll Creek Projects to materialize, not to mention it already has its major welcome mat coming from I70 leading into East Patrick and the proposed hotel/conference center. Older Downtown memories run deep, having experienced the mass exiting of businesses to The Golden Mile and the first new Mall. Memories run deep.

DickD

Movies and Go - carts? It might be better than a empty mall, but not much better. And the clientele will be mostly young people. Give me the old mall.

Dwasserba

Pretty sure young people are always the preferred market.

newspostreader

You've got the old mall, and it's closed. Not really working out, is it?

If done properly this will work. They did it with the Riverfront area in Pittsburgh.

Frayou

Word is the Integrity Homes Development aren’t selling too well. So, NOW there is discussion about the composition and/or design of individual homes which Encourages viable retail growth as well as improving access to Rt 70. Forty years too late.

sevenstones1000

Gentrification happens in older parts of a city where the architecture is already beautiful, if run down.

You cannot gentrify the cheap townhomes built in Frederick in the 1970s and after. They would all have to be torn down and replaced with decent architecture.

Dwasserba

Major cities had "revitalization" of inner cores, tearing down what modern eyes disliked. Savannah is rebuilding quaint "squares" that were replaced with boxy buildings. Anything built before was "cheaper" to buy then. Future buyers look at properties with fresh eyes and sometimes surprising assessments.

mrnatural1

Good point sevenstones. [thumbup]

jamesnee

Now would probably be a good time to address the drainage issues of this area; mainly because they become the drainage issues downtown in short order. A new development would not allow back filling and black top right up to a major stream like Carroll Creek, as is clearly shown here.

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