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Huge shopping center proposed for city

November 11, 1996

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A McLean, Va.-based development firm on Monday announced plans to build a large shopping center west of Hagerstown at the intersection of Interstate 81 and U.S. 40.

The $40 million project, to be called The Centre at Hagerstown, is slated to open in the fall of 1998 at the northwest quadrant of the interchange, according to an official from Petri Dierman Kughn, the developer.

It will cover 700,000 square feet of commercial retail space, create 1,500 new jobs and produce $850,000 in tax revenues, according to Hicks & Rotner, the real estate brokerage firm that is serving as the exclusive leasing agency for the project.

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Phillip L. Ross, vice president of Petri Dierman Kughn, said Hagerstown is an ideal location for a shopping center because of the region's quality labor pool and its proximity to major highways.

"Hagerstown has been attracting businesses because of its well-trained work force. We see a lot of growth potential," he said. "At the current time, a number of retailers, we feel, would like to serve that market."

The proposed shopping center, which would not be an enclosed mall, would be located about a mile away from Valley Mall off Halfway Boulevard. Valley Mall Manager Tim Nolan could not be reached for comment.

Ross said the company currently is negotiating with several large retailers. The site could accommodate six to nine large retailers along with several smaller shops, restaurants and financial institutions, he said.

Ross said Interstates 81 and 70 and Md. 40 put the location within easy reach of 200,000 potential customers.

"The location is prime because of its access to southern Pennsylvania and West Virgina," he said. "(Interstates) 81 and 70 make it accessible on a super regional basis. On a more local basis, Rt. 40 serves the immediate city of Hagerstown."

Vincent Groh, a trustee of the 400-acre site that is mostly farmland, said Petrie Dierman Kughn has a three-year option to purchase a 70-acre piece of the property.

"If things work out, they buy it," he said. "If not, they don't."

Groh said he believes the firm has a serious interest, but he said that two proposals from other developers over the past decade have failed to materialize.

"They have a pretty good track record, I understand, of doing things," he said. "But, of course, you never know."

If the shopping center is built as envisioned, it could be a financial windfall for the county. Hicks & Rotner estimated the center would create 1,500 full- and part-time jobs. It also said it would produce $500,000 in income tax for the county annually and roughly $350,000 in real estate taxes.

Bob Arch, Washington County's planning director, said he has heard informally about the developer's intentions, but said no formal plans have been filed.

If the project conforms to zoning regulations, Arch said, the company would file a site plan. He said the time required for approval varies widely depending on the size and complexity of the proposal.

For major development projects, the county scrutinizes utilities, transportation, parking and other issues, Arch said.

Currently, the land is zoned for heavy commercial development. But the county is rezoning the land, along with four other major interchanges, to create zones of heavy development and areas of residential and light commercial development.

Although he has not seen plans, Arch said he expects the developer has picked a site that would allow for heavy development.

"My guess is they're probably sitting on a piece of property that meets their needs," he said.

Petri Dierman Kughn has proposed two other shopping centers of similar size, one for Winchester, Va., and the other for Salisbury, Md.

Since it was founded 12 years ago, Petri Dierman Kughn has developed 3.5 million square feet of retail space throughout the country, including a shopping center in Largo, in Prince Georges County, Md.

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