Laurel residents, officials hopeful for Towne Centre plans -- Gazette.Net



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Only three tenants may have been announced so far, but Laurel residents and area officials are already optimistic about the future for the Towne Centre at Laurel.

The Towne Centre is being built at the site of the former Laurel Mall, which is currently being demolished. The mall closed in May after 33 years of operation, but had been in decline since the 1990s, said Pete Piringer, Laurel’s public information officer.

The new shopping center is expected to be completed in fall 2014 and Regal Cinema movie theater, Harris Teeter Neighborhood Food and Pharmacy and Burlington Coat Factory have been confirmed as tenants.

Kim Potember, senior vice president and director of development operations for Greenberg-Gibbons, said the company is close to signing leases with all major anchor tenants, and will be making an announcement regarding the businesses in the near future, but declined to give an exact date.

Burlington Coat Factory, currently the only portion of the old Laurel Mall still standing, will vacate in May, but is expected to return to the Towne Centre after its completion, Piringer said.

The city has been looking forward to the $200 million construction project, which he said is expected to create 1,000 to 1,500 new full- and part-time jobs after opening, Piringer said.

Laurel resident Brian McCray welcomed the news of a new cinema, but was less enthusiastic about Harris Teeter’s arrival.

“We definitely need a new movie theater here, but a grocery store? You’ve got Safeway right here and Giant about a block away,” he said. “I guess it’s all about competition.”

McCray said he hoped other stores in the Towne Centre would reflect the diversity in the community.

“Laurel has a nice balance of social classes, with blue collar neighborhoods and white collar neighborhoods, and the Towne Centre should reflect that,” he said. “Also, it should be well-maintained and keep up with the times. That was the problem with the old Laurel Mall.”

Laurel resident Robert Kirkland also supported the movie theater’s arrival. He said he would also like to see some sports stores, “and I hope they have a Target or a Wal-Mart. A lot of people would definitely like to shop locally instead of going out to [Route] 198.”

Andrew Breen, a Beltsville resident who said he often shops in Laurel, said “Harris Teeter is a little too fancy for my tastes,” but added, “They should have some high-end clothing stores, Sears, a bookstore, a game store. Frankly, anything would be better than the old Laurel Mall.”

David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development and public infrastructure in Prince George’s County, said the county has every confidence in the developer.

“Greenberg-Gibbons is a great company, and we have a lot of confidence in their ability to develop the site,” Iannucci said, citing the Owings Mills-based developer’s work on other sites, which include Hunt Valley Towne Centre, Annapolis Towne Centre, the Village at Waugh Chapel in Gambrills and Hampton Towne Centre in Hampton, Va.

“These are all great places and I have a lot of confidence in the company’s ability to replicate that success in Laurel,” he said.

Matthew Coates, chairman of the Laurel Board of Trade, also voiced his support for the Towne Centre’s strategy.

“Once someone is onboard, the other retail folks will follow. They like to know who their customer base is before they sign on,” Coates said. “These chain stores follow one another.”

At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Laurel City Council approved issuing up to $15.5 million in tax increment financing bonds to help pay for public improvements, such as crosswalks, roads and traffic signals, at the developer’s request.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net