Burtonsville Crossing reaches out to county for help
Mall asks for possible rezonings and financial incentives
The struggling Burtonsville Crossing shopping center has reached out to the county to help it stay afloat now that it has lost its anchor store to a new development across the street. But county officials say the center needs to find a new anchor before it can consider offering a financial incentive.
The Giant food store, the anchor tenant at Burtonsville Crossing, is slated to move to Burtonsville Town Square in the next few months. Both shopping centers are at the intersection of routes 29 and 198 in Burtonsville, and several tenants at the older mall did not renew their leases when they heard the news about Giant moving.
"This change [of Giant leaving] will be the culminating event that has effectively handicapped the property for the last several months," said a letter from Edens & Avant, which owns Burtonsville Crossing. "... Needless to say, we are now in a dire situation."
In the Aug. 4 letter, which was sent to County Executive Isiah Leggett, Edens & Avant said it has already tried to fill the void left by Giant with everything from Target and Kohl's to movie theaters with no luck so far. The primary interest has been from other grocers, such as Harris Teeter, but Giant will not allow another grocer to compete with its new store across the street, the letter said. Giant used to own Burtonsville Crossing and maintains the right to block another grocer from leasing the spot, even after it leaves.
Representatives from Edens & Avant will meet with Leggett in early October to discuss plans for the shopping center along with Joy Nurmi, director of the Eastern County Regional Services Center; County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro, (D-Dist. 4); and Steve Silverman, director of the county's Department of Economic Development.
Although the letter from Edens & Avant also broaches the possibility of the county offering a financial incentive to lure a new anchor tenant to fill the 55,000-square-foot vacancy when Giant leaves, it has not presented the county with definitive plans for an anchor store that will replace Giant, Silverman said. The county will not discuss providing financial incentives until Edens & Avant secures that anchor, he said.
"I think they're saying it may require financial incentives, and we're saying we'll be glad to discuss that as soon as you have a live tenant so you can evaluate it," Silverman said.
Businesses at Burtonsville Crossing already took a hit after the state realigned Route 29 in 2004, inadvertently redirecting traffic away from the front of the property. While still trying to recover from this change, Edens & Avant learned that the county approved the Burtonsville Town Square site, the letter said.
In 2008, four tenants broke their leases and two other tenants, Mattress Discounters and Dollar Buys, both filed for bankruptcy, the letter said.
After Giant leaves, more than two-thirds of the 129,726-square-foot shopping center will be empty, according to the letter.
Burtonsville Crossing's convenience commercial zoning prevents department stores and intense usage buildings (such as daycares and auto shops) from renting space. Should Edens & Avant secure a business not now allowed in a convenience commercial zone as an anchor, the county may look into rezoning possibilities.
"If it turns out that there's a department store of some kind or some other entity that would be an anchor, and it's not permitted under the zone, the council and the county executive would have to look at zoning options," Silverman said. "Otherwise, you have a big, vacant space."
Susan Scala-Demby, zoning manager for the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services, said to change property zoning, one must prove an error in the original zoning or find a reason for new zoning in the master plan.
"You have to find some error that's been done in the zoningthat somebody left a portion as one zone when it should have been another when it was originally zoned," Scala-Demby said. "If there was an error or if it's recommended in a master plan, that's pretty much the time you can get it changed."
Edens & Avant offered no comment regarding the letter.