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Frederick mall redevelopment plans plagued by weak economy

By Ike Wilson

Saturday - 3/6/2010, 8:06am  ET

A depressed economy continues to plague redevelopment of Frederick Towne Mall.

Much time and effort was spent on plans to redevelop the property into a mixed use project of housing and commercial, but the work fell victim to the sour economy, local lawyer David A. Severn said Friday.

"By the time they got approvals, the market tanked," Severn said. "The mixed use residential and office plans are highly unlikely to be developed."

Severn represents DLC Management Corp., a Tarrytown, N.Y.-based commercial real estate owner, developer, leasing and management firm that specializes in shopping centers nationwide. The company was hired last year to look at redevelopment plans for the mall with fresh eyes, mall manager Tom Bradley said.

Initial plans have been significantly revised in favor of commercial development and the market has a lot to do with what happens with Frederick Towne Mall, Severn said.

"Not a lot of retailers are building new stores. My guess is that we will see new development plans by summer," Severn said.

Severn thinks DLC Management is focused on securing big anchor tenants, he said.

Plans for the property will be driven by those future tenants. Any new design will revolve around them, as national businesses have their own ideas for design and layout. But no new tenants are lined up, Severn said.

Redevelopment plans call for a big draw, Severn said.

"If you get the big bananas, the smaller ones will follow," he said.

Plans will need to navigate the city's zoning process, which can be a challenge, Severn said.

Local jurisdictions are bound by the state, which is becoming much more heavy-handed imposing regulations, and that is worrying, Severn said.

"In terms of a business environment where business wants to relocate, I think the city is much more welcoming than the county," Severn said. "Their attitude is we're not going to do anything to help anything. É It's more about 'how can we stop you,' not 'how can we help you.'"

Frederick County Commissioners President Jan Gardner took issue with Severn's characterization of the county's business climate.

The mall's development is the city's responsibility and the county has actively supported Frederick 's development and redevelopment efforts along the Golden Mile by offering a tax credit for renovating and reusing vacant space, Gardner said Friday in an e-mail.

"This is an incentive for redevelopment versus building in a green field to help reinvigorate our long-standing commercial areas," Gardner said. "The applicant may be able to take advantage of this tax credit. I would certainly consider that business friendly."

Boonsboro resident Sandy Wiebel has frequented Frederick Towne Mall for 20 years.

"I would hate to see it go. If it goes, there's not a lot on this side of town," Wiebel said Friday while completing her shopping at Bon Ton, one of the mall's anchor stores.

Copyright 2010 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.