Kmart to close Forestville, Laurel stores
Mar. 15, 2002
Elaine Wu
Staff Writer

After weeks of speculation, Kmart Corp. has said it will close stores in Forestville and Laurel as part of the discount retailer's corporate restructuring.

The Troy, Mich. company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, plans to shut a total of 284 under-performing stores nationwide, including six in Maryland. It will leave 22,000 people without jobs. In addition, the company is taking a $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion charge related to the reorganization.

"This is the necessary step we have to take to become a healthier company," said Kmart spokeswoman Michele Jasukaitis.

Kmart will present the list of store closings to the bankruptcy court Wednesday to get final approval. The other Maryland locations to close are in Aberdeen, Columbia, La Vale and Randallstown. Liquidation sales will start around March 21 and last for 60 day to 90 days, Jasukaitis said.

Locally, 170 people work at the Laurel and Forestville locations, Jasukaitis said. Their jobs would be terminated as well. Kmart will continue to operate four stores in Prince George's: Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Clinton and Oxon Hill.

"I'm very saddened by it," said District Heights Mayor Jack Sims of the Forestville store closing. "I know a lot of our residents use Kmart, especially my wife. She's a Kmart shopper."

Executives at Simon Property Group, which owns and manages Forest Village Park Mall, didn't find out about the closing in Forestville until it was announced to the public last Friday.

"To be honest we haven't even been officially notified yet," said Billie Scott, spokeswoman of Simon Property Group, which also owns Bowie Town Center. "As such, it's probably a little premature to speculate who might take that spot."

Kmart opened in Forestville in 1979 with 84,000 square feet of space. JCPenney remains the other anchor tenant at Forest Village Park Mall.

The Kmart in Laurel is located at Laurel Lakes Centre, whose tenants include Best Buy, Safeway and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. The owner of the property, Urban Retail Properties Co. of Chicago, couldn't be reached for comments.

For the city of Laurel, Kmart's leaving is a loss, but Mayor Mike Leszcz remains hopeful.

"It's just like when Hechinger's went bankrupt, but we were able to get Home Depot to come to that location," Laurel Mayor Mike Leszcz said. "I think Laurel is centrally located and there are people that want to spend money and I think that the owner of Laurel Lakes Centre is certainly realizing it."

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