Representatives from General Growth Properties said the redevelopment of the Mall in Columbia will create a new outdoor experience, filled with outdoor seating for new restaurants, new stores and a pedestrian connection to the Lakefront and the new Warfield area developments.
However, they did not say who would be moving into the proposed addition of 43,500 square feet of retail space during a presentation Tuesday night at Howard Community College.
"At this point we have a tremendous amount of interest from retailers," said Jim Whitcome, senior development director for GGP. "But until we complete negotiations, I can't let you know who they are."
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A digital rendering shown during the presentation showed three new buildings being built where the L.L. Bean store and an auxillary parking lot currently sits. In between the buildings would be two pathways. The main pathway would extend from the existing fountain plaza in front of L.L. Bean to a new entrance to the mall. A secondary pathway would extend from the Nordstrom deck parking lot and intersect perpendicularly with the main pathway.
"We envision restaurants with outdoor seating... leading you into the heart of the project," said Gordon Godat, the design architect working with GGP to design the buildings.
Godat said the buildings would vary in size to make it seem like they evolved over time, and warm colors would be used to relate with the surrounding landscape. Planned landscaping includes mature shade trees as well as native species situated in rainwater planters, according to Godat.
With new stores coming in and an auxillary parking lot to be removed, multiple residents questioned developers about whether there was adequate parking.
"We don't anticipate adding additional parking to the mall," said Whitcome.
Whitcome said the impetus for the plan came from L.L. Bean's request to downsize its store. He said the Downtown Columbia master plan had directed developers to make a connection to the Lakefront, but that the L.L. Bean store was blocking their ability to do so.
"All of a sudden the roadblock comes to us and says we don't want to be there," said Whitcome.
"The downsizing is part of our global operations," said L.L. Bean store manager Tom Metzger, who was at the meeting.
Metzger said L.L. Bean was currently in negotiations with the mall about finding a new spot for the outdoor clothing and equipment store, but that they were interested in staying in Columbia.
Whitcome said if the plan is approved, developers hope to start construction in January of 2013. If so, he said, they would likely be able to deliver spaces to tenants by August of 2013. He said some retail tenants take 30 days to move in, some 60, and that restaurants tend to take around 180 days before they open.
Besides parking questions, there appeared to be little problems with the plan GGP presented during the question and answer session with members of the public.
Ursula Kondo, who told the developers she had lived in Columbia for 32 years, said, "I really like your design, I think you've done a fantastic job."