Jim Denny's Commentary

Posted January 9, 2011 (user submitted)

The Owings Mills Mall came into existence in 1985 when a new Interstate Highway, I-795 was built from the Baltimore Beltway to the Carroll County line. With easy access, Owings Mills Mall was trumpeted as a first-class, high status mall that would attract an up-scale clientele.

It was built in an area at the edge of northwestern Baltimore County, an area specially targeted for major growth. The area immediately surrounding the mall would include extensive office parks and retail, along with high-density, and medium-density residential development and somewhat further out, low-density residential growth, housing choices appropriate for any and all. Among other things, this area has a very high percentage of Jewish population.

An early complaint of the mall was that in appealing especially to Jewish customers, virtually no Christmas decorations were on display, this, in contrast to most malls that "go over the top" with Christmas displays. Doing my Christmas shopping in one of the early years of Owings Mills Mall, I actually heard a customer say to his shopping companion, "there isn't one Christmas tree here." At the time, he was right.

I don't know how much this aspect of retailing may have hurt or hindered sales at Owings Mills Mall. What I can say with certainty is that the revitalization of the Towson Town Center Mall in Towson relatively soon after Owings Mill Mall was built, eclipsed Owings Mills Mall as a destination for Greater Baltimore's most upscale customers.

A "Baltimore Sun" article states that currently, nearly 25 percent of Owings Mills Mall's space is vacant, a sure sign of a dead or dying mall. The anchor tenants, Saks and Sears among others, are long gone. The vast parking lots surrounding the mall are empty and silent, a huge expanse of open asphalt that will induce feelings of agoraphobia even among the most outdoor-loving. The article also quotes a Victoria's Secret employee, saying, "This is just sort of a dud mall," and "There is nothing here. If I didn't work here, I wouldn't come here at all."

General Growth Properties owns this mall. It is a mystery as to what they may try to do to "turn it around."

The article may be found here:,0,5476316.story

Steve McIntosh's Commentary

Posted December 3, 2005 (user submitted October 25, 2005)

Not exactly a dead mall yet, but it is borderline. Intended to be an upscale mall when built in the mid-1980s, this mall thrived for awhile. Around 1996, the end was nearing as Saks Fifth Avenue closed their first and only Baltimore area store. Towson Town Center, which was in a more affluent and densely populated area, had completed a renovation just prior, and the completion of the rail line from downtown to Owings Mills opened accessibility of the mall to low income inner-city people. As you would expect, this also brought crime to the area. The mall seemed to temporarily rebound when it added Sears and Lord & Taylor as anchors in the late 90s. However, shoppers still didn't come. Sears lasted one year, L & T lasted two, which is unfortunate since I used to rack up deals on marked down clothes at L & T due to the lack of foot traffic. Recently, the mall added discount furniture retailer "Stick 'n Stuff", which is a sure sign that the mall is going to continue to decline.

Three things killed this mall:

1. Towson Towne's renovation,
2. The Metro rail: which brought crime and poor urban shoppers to the mall.
3. Baltimore is a very driveable city, and those with cars just went somewhere else. This brought some shifting demographics. The area isn't by any means rundown, but it isn't as affluent nor has the potential it once did. Baltimore not being a destination for shopping, even for some locals. With better shopping in DC close by, more affluent shoppers opt to go to DC or New York.

Wendy Jaklitsch's Commentary

Posted September 3, 2006 (user submitted December 7, 2005)

The buzzards are really starting to circle around this one.

It's been years since Owings Mills has really thrived. Went there for the first time in 1999 when I took a job around the corner, and even then, with Sears and L&T still there, the mall was suffering. The food court had a lot of turnover despite very high lunchtime traffic from the many area office parks, and the rest of the mall just didn't seem that busy. There were still plenty of standard-issue to upscale mall stores, but none of them seemed all that busy even at Christmas. I knew Towson Town Center had taken a bite out of Owings Mills' customer base, but given Owings Mills' place on the expanding Reisterstown Road/795 corridor and the lack of comparable shopping in neighboring Carroll County, it seemed odd that the mall's captive audience went elsewhere.

Fast forward to now. Several high-profile crimes have happened at Owings Mills. This is true of Towson Town Center as well, but Owings Mills suffers for being the terminus of a subway line that runs through some of Baltimore's worst neighborhoods. The mall's demographic thus has a distinct "thug" undercurrent that further deters would-be shoppers from the afffluent communities in its target area. Two of Owings Mills' anchors (Sears and Lord and Taylor) have left, with the aforementioned Sticks 'n Stuff replacing one of them. One more is about to leave; Owings Mills has a Hecht's and a Macy's, and the latter will be closed when the former is rebranded. Many of the chain stores have left and been replaced with decidedly "urban" retailers and mom-and-pop stores. There is an H&M now, but even that is a drop in the bucket when it comes to luring back would-be shoppers.

Perhaps more than anywhere on the East Coast, Baltimore is overmalled. It's a relatively poor city that just can't support a mall at every exit, but the builders keep building and the list of the dead and dying here is long. The recently demalled Hunt Valley Mall was hit hard when Owings Mills opened and all but died when Towson Town Center was expanded. Golden Ring Mall, on Baltimore's east side, was a victim of declining area demographics and has since become a big-box center. Same with Westview Mall in Catonsville, which Owings Mills pretty much killed. White Marsh and Columbia have held steady -- the latter because of an aggressive remodeling and expansion effort, and the former because of its incredibly strategic position and the pseudo-"main street" Avenue at White Marsh. Many more smaller malls -- Timonium Mall, Towson Circle, Chatham Mall -- are either dead or demalled. About the only malls that have survived against the odds are Eastpoint Mall and Security Square. Security Square has continually reinvented itself to be in tune with demographic changes. The surrounding area's largely black working- to middle-class population is served well by the combination of two solid anchors (Sears and Hecht's), an Old Navy, a Burlington Coat Factory, and a proliferation of independent retailers who really know their target audience. In addition, what used to be a J.C. Penney has since become Seoul Plaza, a mall-within-a-mall that caters to the area's burgeoning Asian population. Owings Mills really put a big dent in Security Square's customer base back in the day. The tables have since turned, though, and now Owings Mills is trying desperately to appeal to the same audience with less success. Time will tell, but with three anchors going/gone and an unshakeable reputation for crime, I think this mall will be dead in a few years.


Owings Mills Mall photos courtesy of Wendy Jatlitsch
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