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Sears could try for Wards mall location

March 08, 2001

Sears could try for Wards mall location



By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - Sears Inc. is considering moving into the Valley Mall in space about to be vacated by Montgomery Ward, officials said Wednesday.

Sears Inc. is among the department stores negotiating for the Wards space, a Sears official said. Sears has been in the Long Meadow Shopping Center for 50 years.

Sears is considering taking over a number of Wards stores, said Peggy Palter, Sears' corporate spokeswoman in Chicago.

Palter wouldn't comment on specific stores, but said "We do relocate stores when we find it's an advantage to do so in the market."

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The Wards at the Valley Mall has a separate parcel for its automotive center so it could accommodate the Sears automotive center.

Debra Hunt, marketing director for Long Meadow Shopping Center, had no comment Wednesday about the possibility of the shopping center losing Sears. Last week Long Meadow Cinemas closed and McCrory's has posted "going out of business" signs.

Kimco Realty Corp., of Long Island, N.Y., last week was awarded designation rights to Wards' real estate properties, a Kimco news release said.

The deal gives Kimco until Feb. 26, 2002, to market properties Wards leased, such as the Valley Mall store, said Scott Onufrey, Kimco's director of investor relations.

Kimco has until Dec. 31, 2004, to market properties Wards owned, such as the Frederick Towne Mall store on the Golden Mile in Frederick, Md., Onufrey said.

Onufrey confirmed that Sears is one of the department stores with which Kimco is negotiating to take over Wards stores, but wouldn't comment on individual sites.

Kimco also is talking with May Department Stores Co., Federated Department Stores Inc., Dillard's, Home Depot, Lowe's and Target, Onufrey said. May Department Stores include Hecht's, Lord & Taylor, Strawbridges and the jones store. Federated stores include Bloomingdale's and Macy's.

Target said this week it will buy the rights to 35 former Wards stores, according to industry reports.

Onufrey said it is unlikely a retail store would be located close to another store of the same name, but it would depend on that store's market.

There is already a Hecht's at the Valley Mall and a Target near the mall.

South of Frederick there is a Hecht's at the Francis Scott Key Mall as well as a Target and Kohl's, said Tom Bradley, general manager of the Frederick Towne Mall.

Kohl's is another department store with which Kimco is reportedly negotiating, although Kohl's tends to open in stand-alone stores rather than at malls, industry officials said.

The Wards at the Frederick Towne Mall is expected to close around March 31, Bradley said.

Bradley said there has been a lot of interest in the Wards automotive center building, which is on a separate parcel in front of the mall.

Automotive centers, drug stores and restaurants have inquired about that parcel, but have been turned away because the store and auto center are being marketed together, Bradley said.

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