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               LAUREL MALL: LAUREL, MD

William Patton's Commentary

Posted December 31, 2009 (user submitted)

This Christmas season, my six-year-old daughter told me that she wanted to give my wife and red umbrella on which we would paint “Mommy-Doll” on the top of the canopy. I decided to buy the umbrella at a Macy’s located at Laurel Mall because this Macy’s was less than a mile away from a Michael’s craft store from which we could buy gold fabric paint for her project. I also knew that Macy’s would have my wife’s brand of perfume for me to buy for her.

I was well aware of the Laurel Mall’s precarious state and I has not dared ventured into the structure for about four years. My wife had had a bad customer service experience at Things Remembered (which had been operating at a large kiosk) in Laurel Mall. She had also eaten a dreadful piece of pizza at the food court and she then vowed, four years ago, never to return to Laurel Mall.

My daughter and I entered the mall through the Macy’s exterior entrance. I bought a perfume gift package but they did not have a red umbrella. We decided to enter the mall through the Macy’s and walk through the mall to the Burlington Coat Factory located at the other end.

The mall was as eerie and dead as I had feared it would be. At least eighty-five percent of the inline stores were vacant, their glass store fronts covered over with black plastic. Other than a GNC, Lady Foot Locker, and another sports apparel store, most of the stores were selling items which one would find at flea markets, or perhaps on a peddler’s cart near a Washington, D.C. tourist attraction. Redskins hats, black velvet Bob Marley prints, anyone?

Some of the escalators were not operating; the food court literally had only two vendors, Auntie Anne’s pretzels and Grill to Go. The entrance to the food court has three coin operated kiddie rides and I later saw that the mall’s website (www.shoplaurelmall.com) actually advertises that these rides are there! The mall was not particularly dirty, nor was it in disrepair but it was definitely creepy, due mostly to high vacancy. Overall, I suppose that General Growth Properties, who manages the mall, is doing the best job it can given the circumstances.

Anyway, we made it to the disheveled chaos that is the Burlington Coat Factory only to find that it did not have a red umbrella either. My daughter and I turned around and walked out of the mall as quickly as possible to avoid being spooked out and longer than we had too. I did not want the mall to contribute to any scary dreams my daughter might have.

My first memory of the Laurel Mall was from when the mall was new, February of 1980. I was ten at the time and my older cousin had taken me with her the Hecht Company so that she could buy Elton John tickets from the Ticket Master location at Hecht’s. During the mall’s heyday, in the mid 1980s, I remember that on Friday and Saturday nights, kids in their late teens and early twenties would “cruise” the mall in their muscle cars and pick-up trucks; a “redneck parade” as my father would call it.

The parade route started in the parking lot of the adjacent Laurel Shopping Center (where, indeed George Wallace had been shot in 1972) and end on the upper deck of the now condemned parking garage. Paraders could not stop and talk to each other for very long or a Laurel city cop would break bad on them and insist that they “keep moving”. Would not the mall love to have some of these problems today?

In June of 2009, the Laurel City Council voted to give Somera Capital Management, along with the other owning interests of the mall, a $16 million tax break in the form of “tax increment financing” to assist the owners in a redevelopment effort for the mall.

Originally the city had hoped that the mall's owners would tear down the entire structure and build a new, mixed use development. However, the owners decided on a plan to renovate the old mall building, which would have the parking garages torn down, exterior store fronts constructed, and the addition of a 16 theater, stadium seating multiplex cinema.

Due to the present economic crisis, particularly in the bond market, capital for the project has been difficult to procure and all plans for the renovation are on hold. Capital Growth Management says that it plans to seek more short term tenants while the mall’s plans are stalled. Capital growth said it had “considered clumping all of the tenants together so that the mall doesn’t look so empty.” (www.explorehoward.com/news/63261/city-approves-tif-mall/)

Arthur C. Adams' Commentary

Posted March 29, 2006 (user submitted)

The Laurel Mall in Laurel, Maryland (located on Rte. 1 almost midway between Baltimore and Washington) was never an especially big mall -- less than one hundred stores, I'd guess -- but it was a pretty decent middle class mall. The anchor stores were JC Penneys, Hechts (a DC area high end retailer), and Montgomery Ward. Incidentally, its adjacent to the open-air Laurel Shopping Center, best known as the location where George Wallace was shot.

It has since fallen on hard times. The JC Penneys space is now a discount furniture store, and Montgomery Ward is now a Burlington Coat Factory. Hechts, to my amazement, is still there, though its a low end store for the normally higher end chain. With Hechts soon to be completely devoured... errr... absorbed... into Macy's, I'd be surprised if that lasted.

Hair Cuttery has moved down Rte. 1 to an open air mall, as has GameStop. WaldenBooks closed years ago -- the staff implied to my B. Balton convinced the mall management to yank their lease when they got a bigger space. B. Dalton closed within the past year or so. Hallmark is gone now. The Friendly's Restaurant is shuttered.

The other stores than remain aren't much. There's a airbrush t-shirt stop that clearly caters to the "gangsta" crowd. There's still some small stores, mostly apparel and hair salons. Few are associated with any really large chains.

Last summer, the walkway from the upper deck of the rear parking garage to the mall collapsed. Fortunately, it was late at night and no one was there. The upper deck of the parking lot has since been closed down.

The problems would seem to be that Laurel Mall could never compete with the nearby much higher end Columbia Mall, or the much larger, low-end Arundel Mills mega-mall. Further, it does not seem to be a safe place to shop. The aforementioned airbrushed t-shirt shop that caters to "gangstas" certainly doesn't feel welcoming to most people. There's stories of at least one shooting, reputedly a drug deal gone bad, at the mall in areas not open to the public. Friends have told me I'm nuts for going there even in the daytime.

I've heard the mall is in receivership. Since its on a pretty small plot of land, rumor is that it will be replaced with a small open air facility.

Links

washingtonpost.com link - Article about the walkway collapse.









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