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, located 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 on October 30, 1961. The second anchor, a 3-level (229,900 square foot), Baltimore-based Stewart & Company, made its debut on January 2, 1962.

The 20 million dollar, open-air mall was officially dedicated March 14, 1962. Encompassing approximately 675,000 leasable square feet, REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA opened as the largest shopping center in Greater Baltimore. It eventually housed fifty stores and services.

Among these were Bond Clothes, Read's Drug, Kavanaugh's men's wear, Fanny Farmer Candies, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Food Fair grocery. The Trans-Lux Corporation Reisterstown Plaza Theatre was installed in the East Wing of the mall. This single-screen venue showed its first feature on June 30 1965.

"THE PLAZA" had several regional-class competitors in its vicinity. These included MONDAWMIN CENTER (1956) {3.5 miles southeast, in Baltimore City}, WESTVIEW CENTER (1958) {4.7 miles southwest, in Baltimore County} and TOWSON ["tow" rhymes with "cow"] PLAZA (1959) {6.3 miles northeast, in Baltimore County}.

There were also EUDOWOOD PLAZA (1962) {7 miles northeast, in Baltimore County}, SECURITY SQUARE CENTER (1963 & 1972) {3.6 miles southwest, in Baltimore County} and -eventually- HUNT VALLEY MALL (1981) {10 miles northeast, in Baltimore County} and OWINGS MILLS TOWN CENTER (1986-2013) {5.3 miles northwest, in Baltimore County}.

REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA was rededicated, as a fully-enclosed mall, in May 1976. At this time, Baltimore's Hochschild-Kohn chain opened a boutique-type store. This was shuttered in late 1984. The mall's two anchors operated under their original nameplates until the mid-1980s. Stewart's became the first to close, in January 1983.

The store space was divided. Its (88,000 square foot) ground level was leased as a Connecticut-based Caldor discount mart, which began business in June 1983. The two upper floors were sectioned into the Plaza Office Center, which was accessed via a newly-built elevator structure added to the north side of the building. The first tenants moved in in November 1986.

Caldor shut down in early 1987 and was replaced by a Massachusetts-based Zayre in April of the same year. This store was converted into a Connecticut-based Ames in 1988 and closed in April 1993.

On the opposite end of the mall, Hecht's had downsized into its ground level in early 1983, with the (77,200 square foot) lower level being configured as a Landover, Maryland-based Hechinger home improvement warehouse.

After Hecht's was shuttered, in August 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 the late 1960s and was re-opened, as 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. Revenue service was inaugurated on November 21, 1983.

The Maryland-based Continental Realty Company had acquired REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA in March 1980. By November 1994, the shopping center was in dire straits. Its proprietor was bankrupt, with the lending agent trying to seize the property. Problems were ironed out, with 12 million dollars invested in a mall-wide renovation. At this time, the shopping facility encompassed 708,500 leasable square feet and housed over one hundred stores and office suites.

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

Meanwhile, the old Trans-Lux movie house was acquired by JF Theatres. It re-opened, as the Reisterstown Twin, on December 1, 1980 and was in operation until 1989. A second in-mall venue was installed in the southwest corner of the complex. The JF Theatres Reisterstown 5-Star Cinema was dedicated on May 22, 1985By the 21st century, the multiplex was operating as the Reisterstown Premier Cinema 7. It was shuttered in June 2000.

Ownership of the shopping facility changed in late 2002, with Baltimore's Cordish Company taking the helm. The center, now officially known as simply THE PLAZA, was in the midst of a 4-year-long renovation, which had got underway in late 2001.

The initial stages of the renovation added a 1-level (115,200 square foot) Home Depot to the mall's west-facing facade. This store opened on November 21, 2002. At the same time, the 7-bay Food Plaza, installed in existing space, was dedicated.

The next stage of the remodeling demalled the West Wing, with much of the structure being demolished. A 1-level (63,700 square foot) Giant Foods supermarket was constructed, which welcomed its first shoppers in July 2004. Marshalls also dedicated a (28,500 square foot) store. THE PLAZA now encompassed approximately 772,400 leasable square feet.

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

National Wholesale Liquidators, in the old Stewart's space, was shuttered in December 2008. The store was replaced by a (53,000 square foot), New York City-based Shoppers World and (35,000 square foot), Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots; the latter opening for business on November 11, 2011.

Illinois' Inland American Real Estate Investment Trust changed its name to Retail Properties of America in March 2012. They initiated a second stage PLAZA demalling in July 2016. This time around, the East Wing of the facility would be partially demolished and reconfigured with exterior-entranced stores.

Tenants such as Shoe City were relocated. New stores, including a (12,500 square foot) Petco and (8,500 square foot) Five Below, were signed. Petco opened in January 2018. With its completion, REISTERSTOWN ROAD PLAZA encompassed 700,000 leasable square feet and contained around sixty-four retail spaces.

Sources:

The Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore Afro-American
"Baltimore's Bygone Department Stores: Many Happy Returns" / Michael J. Lisicky / 2012
http://retrobaltimore.tumblr.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://fdrama.com (Food-A-Rama History website)
www.inlandamerican.com (Inland American Real Estate Investment Trust)
http://rpai.propertycapsule.com (Retail Properties of America)
"Reisterstown Road Plaza" article on Wikipedia


BLACK & 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