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Prime time begins on Aug. 7

June 26, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Prime Outlets in Hagerstown

Construction workers, cement trucks, unfinished roads and other signs indicate work isn't completed at the Prime Outlets at Hagerstown, but developers expressed confidence Thursday that the 60-store shopping center will be ready for a planned Aug. 7 grand opening.

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"While there appears to be a lot to do in some respects, things are quite far along," said Brian Downie, vice president for development for the Baltimore-based Prime Retail, which owns the 218,000-square-foot outlet center.

The center, located just south of Hagerstown near the interchange of Md. 65 and Interstate 70, has signed leases with 45 stores, including brand names like The Gap, Nike, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West and J. Crew.

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Owners say the outlet center could attract up to 3 million shoppers a year.

Area children unveiled the store names during a Thursday ceremony in front of the center's food court. More names will be added before the grand opening, company officials said.

Prime Retail also unfurled a large banner promoting the Aug. 7 grand opening. But Downie said it would not be unusual for some stores to quietly open for business a week or two ahead of time to prepare for what is anticipated to be a swarm of customers.

Interior Food CourtThe center will feature factory-direct, discounted merchandise, and will have amenities such as an enclosed food court, a children's playground, an ATM and a customer-service center.

The stores, with concrete facades painted yellow and brick red in a Southwest design, are arranged in rows facing each other. Walkways are covered but the center is not enclosed and there are open courtyards throughout.

The opening on Aug. 7 will be for the center's first phase. Stores in that phase are expected to employ 400 retail, management and maintenance workers and to produce $40 million to $60 million a year in sales. It's expected to generate state sales taxes of between $2 million and $3 million annually.

A second phase of the center, with 100,000 square feet and approximately 25 stores, is to open in November. It is expected to provide jobs for an additional 200 people, the company said.

The entire village, to be expanded as more leases are signed, is to have a total of 418,000 square feet with 100 stores and 800 workers.

Hagerstown fits all the criteria for an excellent outlet location, Downie said.

The area is close enough to attract millions of customers making day trips from the metropolitan area, but not so close that the center would compete with retailers in the Washington and Baltimore areas, he said.

The site also has access to a major highway and a base of local shoppers, he said.

"Hagerstown has all the qualities we think is needed for a great manufacturers outlet center," Downie said.

Downie said it's a positive sign for the outlet's future that so many tenants already have signed leases.

"Our tenants have decided this is a great place to be," he said.

Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said the center could be a tourist draw that brings in visitors from other areas to shop, and then leads them to visit other area attractions.

"There's a lot that can happen as an offshoot of Prime Retail," he said.

Other local officials attending Thursday's ceremonies praised the development, which cost Washington County $44,220 in road improvements on West Oak Ridge Drive. Company officials said they have paid nearly $1 million for road improvements.

"It looks like a first-class operation to me," said County Commissioner R. Lee Downey.

The Hagerstown outlet will be the closest center to Prime Retail's corporate headquarters. The company is considered the largest owner and operator of outlet centers in the world, with 49 centers with a total 13.7 million square feet of space in 26 states.

Company spokesman Brian Lewbart said Prime Retail might use the Hagerstown center to showcase its operation to prospective clients.




Job fair

Prime Outlets is holding a job fair today at the center's food court from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Representatives from Prime Retail and individual stores will take applications and conduct interviews.

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