REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA
Reisterstown Road and Patterson Avenue
Baltimore (City), Maryland

In October 1958, New York City's Food Fair Properties announced plans for a prospective Baltimore shopping center. The complex was to be built on a 55 acre site, 6 miles northwest of the center city. The land parcel was entirely within the corporate limits of the "Independent City" of Baltimore.

REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA was designed by the New York City firms Abbot, Merkt & Company and Raymond Loewy & Associates. Its first operational store, a 2-level (185,000 square foot), Baltimore-based Hecht Company, opened for business in October 1961. The second anchor, a 3-level (229,900 square foot), Baltimore-based Stewart & Company opened in January 1962.

The 20 million dollar open-air mall was officially dedicated March 14, 1962. Encompassing 675,000 leasable square feet, REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA opened as the largest shopping center in the Baltimore region; eventually housing fifty stores and services. Included on the tenant roster were Bond Clothes, Read's Drug, Best & Company, a Food Fair supermarket and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The single-screen Trans-Lux Theatre was added to the rear of the mall in 1964.

Known locally as "THE PLAZA", the center had several regional-class competitors in its vicinity. These included MONDAWMIN CENTER / MALL (1956) {3.5 miles southeast, in Baltimore City}, WESTVIEW CENTER / MALL (1958) {4.7 miles southwest, in Baltimore County}, TOWSON ["tow" rhymes with "cow"] "PLAZA / TOWSON TOWN CENTER (1959) {6.3 miles northeast, in Baltimore County}, EUDOWOOD PLAZA / TOWSON MARKETPLACE (1962) {7 miles northeast, in Baltimore County}, SECURITY SQUARE CENTER / MALL (1963 & 1972) {3.6 miles southwest, in Baltimore County} and -eventually- HUNT VALLEY MALL / TOWNE CENTRE (1981) {10 miles northeast, in Baltimore County} and OWINGS MILLS TOWN CENTER / MALL (1986-2013) {5.3 miles northwest, in Baltimore County}.

REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA was given an enclosing renovation in 1975-1976. At this time, Baltimore's Hochschild-Kohn chain opened a boutique-type store. This was shuttered in late 1984. The mall's original anchors operated under their respective nameplates until the mid-1980s. Stewart's became the first to close, in January 1983. Hecht's followed, in September 1986.

The Stewart's space was divided. Its 88,000 square foot ground level became a Connecticut-based Caldor discount mart. The two upper floors were sectioned into leased office spaces, which were accessed from a newly-built elevator structure added to the northern side of the building in 1986. Caldor pulled out of the mall in 1987 and was replaced by a Massachusetts-based Zayre soon after. This store was converted into a Connecticut-based Ames in 1988 and closed in April 1993.

On the opposite end of the mall, the Hecht's store had downsized into its ground level in 1983, with the 77,200 lower level being made into a Landover, Maryland-based Hechinger home improvement warehouse. After Hecht's was shuttered, in late 1986, the majority of the ground level became a 60,000 square foot Burlington Coat Factory. The Food Fair grocery had morphed into a Pantry Pride in 1970 and a Super Super Food in August 1981.

Rail rapid transit service came to the mall via the Baltimore Metro's 7.6 route mile Charles Center-to-Reisterstown Plaza starter line, which inaugurated revenue service on November 21, 1983.

The Towson, Maryland-based Continental Realty Company had acquired REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA in March 1980. By November 1994, the shopping center was in rather dire straights. Its proprietor was bankrupt, with the lending agent trying to seize the property. The melee was worked out in October 1995 and 12 million dollars was invested in a mall-wide renovation.

Following the 1993 departure of Ames, the ground level of the old Stewart's space was -once again- leased to Caldor. This store would close as the chain folded, in the spring of 1999. West Hempstead, New York's National Wholesale Liquidators opened there in May 2000. Hechinger, on the south end of THE PLAZA, shut down late in 1999.

Ownership of the northwest Baltimore shopping hub changed in late 2002, with Baltimore's Cordish Company taking the helm. The center was in the midst of a 3-year renovation, which had got underway in late 2001. The old Trans-Lux Theatre, which had been operating as the Reisterstown Premier Cinema 5 until being shuttered in 1995, was torn down. A 1-level (115,200 square foot) Home Depot opened on the spot November 21, 2002. A Food Court was installed in existing mall space, which also opened in November 2002.

Next, a 28,500 square foot Marshalls was installed in existing mall space. It opened in 2003. The exterior of REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA was also given an upgrade. Lastly, store area to the west of Marshalls was ripped out, with a 1-level (63,700 square foot) Giant Foods built. It came inline in July 2004.

In August 2004, Cordish Companies entered into a joint ownership venture with the Oak Brook, Illinois-based Inland American Retail Trust. By this time, the vacant Hechinger space (in the old Hecht's building) had been subdivided between ten tenants.

The most recent changes at THE PLAZA involve the space occupied by National Wholesale Liquidators. Their store was shuttered in December 2008. A New York City-based Shoppers World assumed 53,000 square feet, with the remaining 35,000 opening, as a Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots, on November 11, 2011.

Sources:

The Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore Afro-American
"Reisterstown Road Plaza" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org
www.foodarama.com
www.inlandamerican.com


BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS:

From the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection / Repository: United States Library Of Congress Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. / Taken by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc. / Samuel Herman, March 1962 / Raymond Loewy - Client / Photographs are in the public domain: no known restrictions on publication /
www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html