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Prime Retail inks cola, telecom deals

December 21, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

A cellular phone tower could sprout up near the Interstate 70-Sharpsburg Pike interchange as the result of a new alliance between Baltimore-based Prime Retail and Chicago-based U.S. RealTel, a Prime Retail spokesman said Friday.

Prime Retail, which owns Prime Outlets at Hagerstown, agreed to lease portions of its 50 outlet centers to U.S. RealTel for the construction or installation of telecommunications equipment, said spokesman Brian Lewbart.

U.S. RealTel will sublease the equipment, including satellite dishes and towers for digital telephones, to telecommunications providers, Lewbart said.

The equipment will vary from center to center depending on the site, the companies' needs and what is allowed, he said.

No decisions have been made yet about what will go where, Lewbart said.

The company would be allowed to erect a cellular phone tower on the Prime Outlets at Hagerstown property under current Washington County zoning regulations, said Paul Prodonovich, director of permits and inspections.

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An amendment making all towers a special exception was presented to the previous group of Washington County Commissioners, Prodonovich said.

The amendment is still on the table for possible consideration by the new board, he said.

However, if permits were issued before the amendment was passed, the company could put up the towers, Prodonovich said.

At this point, the county has no height restrictions on communications towers, he said.

"The only thing that would come into play are flight patterns by the airport, things like that," Prodonovich said.

A special exception would be required for the construction of any building used for boosting, switching or pumping signals, he said.

The alliance with U.S. RealTel is strictly an income-generating business deal for Prime Retail without any impact on shoppers, in contrast to its new partnership agreement with Coca-Cola USA, which will directly affect shoppers, Lewbart said.

Shoppers at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown soon will be able to grab a Coke, Diet Coke or Sprite without taking a break from bargain hunting thanks to the exclusive marketing partnership, he said.

But placing machines selling Coca-Cola products around the village-style outlet center and its 49 sister properties is just a small part of the agreement, the cornerstone of Prime Retail's recent branding initiative, Lewbart said.

The companies will use revenue from the machines to run cross-promotions, resulting in added value for customers, he said.

Prime Retail has made an effort to "brand" its properties since its acquisition of Horizon Properties in July by calling them all "Prime Outlets at" whatever the location is, said Alice Rosen, marketing director for Prime Outlets at Hagerstown.

Linking with the recognizable Coca-Cola name and taking advantage of its relationships with other brand-name companies will help the effort, Rosen said.

The agreement with Coca-Cola doesn't mean that the Food Court vendors that sell other soda companies' products will have to switch, she said.

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