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Advertise on the Tentacle

April 29, 2013

To Have A Viable Business or Not?

Jill King

Examining what is marketable in the Frederick area can have its twists and turns; property rights versus considering the aspect of aesthetics or competing always seems to be a venture for a two sided issue.


Believing in a free-market economy and the inherent rights of men, we should be forced to look through the transitions to the Frederick Towne Mall property in order to see what provides the best for the property owner and their plight for success.


In 2002, a study was accomplished by the Golden Mile Taskforce on Economic Development. At that time the mall was not troubled by the economy, nor was it unsuccessful. With only six vacant spots out of 61, there was really no concern about redevelopment at the time, even though other neighboring shopping centers had morphed into spaces that provided outdoor access to stores and the building of indoor malls had become a thing of the past.


Real estate markets faced great difficulties when the bubble burst in early 2005, creating difficulties in the rest of the financial market, and also creating a new need for the Frederick Towne Mall property. That year the mall property was changed from business to mixed use, by request of the new owner, Frederick Towne Mall Associates LLC, in order to position the property for the best success possible; this plan went in before of the City of Frederick in 2006 in order to add 465 condominiums, a parking deck and two multi-story additions.


In 2009 The Golden Mile Retail Report once again shed light, showing that there were now 39 vacant spaces including the movie theatres within the corridors of the mall. Other details prove that there was a lack of those seeking to locate there along with other of problems, including being designated in a 100-year floodplain and with redevelopment issues.


In 2010 the State of Maryland passed HB 1141, which caused more changes to municipal comprehensive plans. With this came the addition of two considerations Municipal Growth Element and the Water Resource Element. This also affects the manner in which a property can be designated moving forward. As mixed use there are problems concerning water issues and finding viable water sources, even gaining access to the water and the higher costs. The floodplain designation also makes for increased expenditures, when insurance is purchased.


In looking at the trials and tribulations of this property, any offer – even if it is Walmart, would make for a profitable vision.


We must ask ourselves a few questions when we look at this issue, which will help form a better understanding as a whole.


Should we – as citizens and as elected and appointed officials – have any input as to how Frederick Towne Mall Associates LLC transitions a known failing business practice, one that has cost associated with trying to improve the property since their purchase and $500,000 in immediate upgrades?


Is this sale and change in zoning sustainable? With HB 1141 of 2010, and the viability of the land under the floodplain, meeting the needs of an owner justifiable when there are limitations that prohibit potential buyers?


Is the Walmart going to contribute to measurable changes? With 700 employees between the two Walmarts in Frederick, reported in 2008, will the employment numbers be beneficial when considering the rising costs of gasoline.


Is Walmart attainable or are there other viable offers on the table? Since 2005 this property has tried unsuccessfully to transition and make profitable decisions.  Many contributors to the feasibility of success have not been apparent, nor have forward-moving changes since the change to mixed use occurred.


Is it realistic to have another Walmart in the area? Living in Frederick County, we know that Walmart is a popular place for one stop shopping, among residents. Those living on the west side of Frederick may travel to the current city stores, or they may travel to Hagerstown, taking money out of the county. This is also the approach in the north end of the county as well as those in southwestern Frederick County, who travel to Charlestown's Super Walmart to shop, also taking jobs and money out of the area and in this case – the state.


Can Walmart be achieved in a timely manner? The deal here is on the table. We have not seen any other interests or suitors for the property.  The original status of the property was business/commercial use and only changed at the owners request for an attempt to move the property forward. Since it was not viable, there is no reason to deny a request to provide Frederick Towne Mall Associates, LLC with the change.


As a consumer, we need to realize that it is our choices as to the success of small businesses and use their services as much as possible, instead of feeding into the frenzy of the box store myth. Affordability is driven by markets; competing is one of the best and most easily understood practices of the free-market.


Think of it this way, if you put your house on the market after exhausting all of your options to sustain it, should your neighbors be able to shoot down the contracts and decide who their next neighbor is going to be?


Yes, that is a silly question but should business owners be subjected to different property rules and should they have the inability to rise above in the economic client, especially in a state that lacks business growth, such as Maryland?


retraining my brain for the future, conferring with my past...


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