Daily Record: Randallstown Plaza overhaul in Baltimore includes government offices
Key TD&A People: Jerome B. Trout, III
By Melody Simmons
BALTIMORE, MD — The center of Randallstown Plaza has long been a vacant eyesore, flanked by a group of small businesses that include a Radio Shack, nail salon, aquarium and reptile store and a soul food restaurant.
But come fall, this sleepy shopping center nearly three miles from the Beltway on Liberty Road will be in the midst of a transformation. A Baltimore County job training and youth development center is planned to go into a 39,000-square-foot former Giant Food store along with a satellite location of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and a county social services branch office.
The project underscores a push to convert vacancies in formerly vibrant shopping centers into mixed-use community hubs, blending retail with non-retail for a new commercial start.
“It will bring people back,” said Jerome Trout III, of Trout Daniel & Associates, developer of the plaza, which opened in 1972. “It will create more attention for the west side.”
Trout said his firm will invest about $3 million in improvements to the plaza, and county officials are expected to spend up to $5 million on additional renovations.
Trout and county officials will officially kick off the project Wednesday and requests for proposals for the renovation of the old Giant store will go out by May 21, said Quentin Lawson II, the project manager. The conversion is expected to begin in late August and be finished by the end of the year so CCBC classes can begin in January, Lawson added.
“It’s going to be a very simple renovation, with minimal demolition and new partitions and ceiling fixtures,” he said.
The grocery chain moved out three years ago, and ever since the huge space has left a saw-toothed gap in the small shopping center’s image, Trout said. He said other food stores were contacted, but most declined to consider leasing the space because there is speculation that a Walmart will be opening about a half-mile south on Liberty Road in another struggling area shopping center.
Two years ago, Trout said, Baltimore County officials asked about leasing the space for a multi-purpose center.
“You want to maintain the retail character, but it was intriguing because we see a trend in mixing retail with non-retail. It’s an offshoot of the whole lifestyle or village center that has been built where a variety of services mixed in with retail for a nice synergy,” Trout said.
A similar project near Rodger’s Forge merged a county office building into a former Caldor big box store in the late 1990s, Trout said. That project, also developed by Trout, stabilized the shopping center in the 6300 block of York Road and sparked a recent expansion of the site with the addition of a Panera Bread store.
Neishall Schuyler, a program specialist in the Baltimore County Office of Workforce Development, said the west side has been in need of a job training center after the county closed one in Catonsville four years ago.
The recession has forced thousands of workers to return to school to learn new trades or skills as well as return to work force development centers for help when they lost jobs, she said, and many live in the western portion of Baltimore County.
Last year, 41,150 people sought training and employment assistance in the county’s work force development centers, including branches in Hunt Valley and Eastpoint, Schuyler said. In 2007-2008, that figure was 30,400 people and in 2006-2007, it was 26,000 people.
The county work force centers offer help in recruitment, training and job search assistance as well as youth development programs. Funding comes from the federal Department of Labor, the state and local sources, Schuyler said.
“Our demand has tripled over the past three years,” said Barry Williams, director of the department.
At the plaza Tuesday afternoon, a sub shop and soul food restaurant were serving a sparse lunch crowd. Tony Smith, who works at Southern Blues, a small restaurant with a home-cooked-style menu that includes fried chicken, ribs, lake trout, collard greens and banana pudding, said the new additions to the plaza would help business.
“I am ready for a change,” he said. “After Giant left, business slowed down because people didn’t like making two or three stops to get their food.”
At Randallstown Plaza Liquors, also in the shopping center, owner Jin Kim said the workforce development center and CCBC satellite campus can only bring more business.
“I don’t know how it will affect us,” Kim said. “But it’s better than being empty.”
This article was orginally published in the Maryland Daily Record.
Read Article Here