Around the City of Frederick: Moving Into the Golden Mile

March 30, 2015 / / News

By Jen Fifield; Frederick News Post
Monday, March 30, 2015
In the words of Justin Kiska, for a while, the Golden Mile has been a bit dead.

The U.S. 40 corridor just west of U.S. 15 hasn’t seen much new investment in years, especially since Frederick Towne Mall has been vacant.

That’s changing though, said Kiska, president of the board of the Golden Mile Alliance. Plans for redevelopment of the mall site are moving forward, and other businesses are moving in.

“There’s so much going on,” he said.

Demolition of the mall should start this summer, Kiska said, and a new Wal-Mart will follow. Other new commercial space will come with that redevelopment, opening the opportunity for several new businesses, he said.

“There will be life again in one of the largest shopping areas in Frederick,” he said.

Some new life is already coming to Westridge Square.

For a few months now, a banner has been hanging on the old location of the Gmart, announcing that another international store with a similar name, Hmart, is moving in.

It’s almost deja vu for those who frequent the area, as a banner hung on the storefront for months before Gmart moved in, too. That didn’t work out so well, as Gmart opened in September 2013 and closed in November 2014.

Kiska said he doesn’t know when Hmart will open, and representatives from the company didn’t return a phone call.

Next to the Hmart, a family from Arlington, Virginia, plans to open a new Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken restaurant, The Golden Beak. The restaurant should open within the next month.

The restaurant owners, Darian Mian and his parents, Niaz and Alecia Mian, saw the location, which is visible from U.S. 40 and has ample parking, as a perfect place for the restaurant.

“There is a good, large and diverse population in Frederick,” he said. “It’s the perfect place for this type of business.”

The opening of the Hmart will provide for great business, he said.

“The store brings a lot of people from different walks of life,” he said.

There is already a Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken restaurant near U.S. 40, Sardi’s.

Mian said his family’s plan is to serve only fresh ingredients cooked on-site.

Another store appears to be almost ready to open in Westridge Square.

There is a sign for United Grow Supply where the Oreck vacuum store used to be, and the store is stocked with gardening and landscaping supplies.

Shops always seem to be moving in and out, said Michael Bateman, one of the owners of Il Forno, also in the complex.

After the Giant moved out, it seemed as if Il Forno almost became the anchor, Bateman said.

“Luckily, we had built such a good client base that they still came for us,” he said.

Il Forno has been in the square for 25 years, and Bateman has been an owner for 15 years, so he has seen a lot of change.

While he said he is looking forward to the Hmart and Wal-Mart, he said the restaurant won’t rely on it.

“We take care of ourselves, and worry about ourselves,” he said.

Asked for the secret to staying alive on the Golden Mile, he said, it’s simple.

“You have to have a good product, and you have to treat people like family,” he said.

Continued …

Changes Are Coming to the Golden Mile

March 29, 2015 / / News

Frederick News Post Op-Ed
By Justin M. Kiska, President of the Board of the GMA
Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Golden Mile found itself in the press quite a bit a couple of years ago as the mayor and Board of Aldermen were discussing the rezoning of the Frederick Towne Mall site and drawing up the Golden Mile Small Area Plan. Up until then, a large number of people had pretty much written off the area as dead. Now, a couple of years later, nothing really looks any different. Looks can be deceiving.

There is a dedicated group of individuals working to help revitalize the Golden Mile. As a business owner on U.S. 40, I can understand how frustrating it is seeing nothing happening. However, as president of the the Golden Mile Alliance I know there are a number of major projects in the works. As I have spoken with people, I’ve found a lot of them don’t know what is actually happening on the Mile and that there are a number of misconceptions about this part of the city. One of the goals of the GMA is to provide information and help to clear up some of the misconceptions.

Obviously, the biggest question is what is happening with the old mall. The site is being completely redeveloped. The developers are working through the final permitting and planning phases, and the plan is for demolition of everything between Boscov’s and Home Depot to begin this summer. By the end of the year, the new Wal-Mart Super Center that is being constructed on the property will be underway. On the front of the property, closest to U.S. 40, there will also be a new shopping center with over 40,000 square feet of retail space and two restaurant sites. It’s not just a Wal-Mart.

On the other end of the Mile, at the intersection of 40 and Baughman’s Lane, stands the old state police barracks. It has been an empty shell greeting those coming to the Golden Mile from U.S. 15 and downtown for too long. That building will be coming down to make way for a Wawa convenience store and gas station, as well as a small retail area.

There is also the matter of the closing of the G-Mart in Westridge Square. The Frederick G-Mart did not close because of any problems the store was having on the Mile. The store closed because of corporate issues on a larger scale. In its place we will now have a more established grocer with H Mart. Slated to open this spring, this will be the company’s 49th store.

On the residential side, two brand-new housing developments are coming to the Golden Mile. The first is located on the old VFW golf course. Buchanan Partners are working on developing West Park Village, a mixed-use community that will include single family homes, along with a seven-acre city park and two commercial sites for retail and office space. Across Mount Phillip Road on Summers Farm there will also be a new housing development. This project is just now in the very early planning stages and working through the zoning process.

With these developments on the west side of 40 and the new Fredericktowne Centre directly across the street, the vision of the small-area plan will begin to come together as a mixed-use area. Before anyone starts saying that isn’t exactly what the small-area plan calls for as far as mixed use, it is a first step in bringing residential and commercial together. The small-area plan is something that is going to have to be implemented over time. It cannot happen all at once, no matter how much we want things to happen quickly.

In the Hillcrest area, Rocky Gorge Development is working on the Townhomes at Willow Bend with “a vision to bring quality housing and home ownership to the neighborhood.” In an area where town houses have been predominantly rental units, the company is renovating each town house and selling them to a number of different types of homebuyers, including first-time buyers and members of the service. Home ownership is proven to improve a community and there is no reason to believe this project will be any different.

Those traveling along the U.S. 40 corridor will also begin to see a new branding of the Golden Mile as the GMA launches its banner program, helping to create a unifying identity.

All of this is to say that just because you don’t see anything happening at the moment doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. To make the Golden Mile Small Area Plan a reality, we need to start somewhere and build a foundation for the future development of U.S. 40. For those who want to help the development along, I encourage them to join the Golden Mile Alliance and become a part of the change they want to see.

Continued …