Residents discuss future of Glenmont Shopping Center
Renovation may be in sight for dilapidated shops
Broken streetlights, unappealing shops and no anchor store have made Glenmont Shopping Center one of the struggling neighborhood's worst eyesores, so property owners met with residents last week to discuss how to draw in more customers in the future.
"Everyone resonated the same concern: There is nothing in the Glenmont Shopping Center that warrants me to go up there and buy anything," said Greater Glenmont Civic Association President Kris Kumaroo who received an "unbelievable outpouring" of e-mails after he set up the July 13 meeting.
"Property owners don't change because folks say, I'd like you to change.' ... When stores look to open, they look for a critical mass of people," said Natalie Cantor, director of the mid-county regional services center, who helped organize the meeting.
Cantor regarded the meeting as "very positive." She says property owners at the closed meeting "pledged to continue to work together on issues of concern" in the developing Glenmont area. The mall now contains such businesses as a dollar store, a drug store and an office-supply store, and it also features an MVA Express.
With a new high-end apartment and condominium complex being built on Layhill Road, the raising of Georgia Avenue over Randolph Road and the move of the fire station to the Glenmont Metro, where a new, 12-floor parking garage is being built, residents are holding out hope that a sparkling new shopping center could be just a few years away.
"All these kinds of changes help to bring in density," said Cantor.
Wheaton resident Elizabeth Arias, who takes her son to karate class and shops at the Magic Dollar at the shopping center, says loiterers at the mall always stare at her and make harassing comments. Arias, who is from Colombia and has lived in Wheaton for 18 years, says her 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son are both apprehensive about visiting the shopping center.
"Five years ago, I didn't see anybody. Now I just see every day people walking around asking for handouts. It's bad for my customers," said Charlie Pak, a Magic Dollar cashier for the past five years.
Karen Durbin, the manager of Arcade Florist, has been selling flowers to shoppers since 1969. When asked how the shopping center has evolved over the years, she laughed as a co-worker slowly dropped a thumbs-down.
"The problem here is that there's a lot of different landlords, and they don't cohesively get together, Durbin said. "...Major renovations? The only thing I ever see them do is work on the parking lot."
Kumaroo says major projects are scheduled throughout Glenmont for the next four years, and when they are finished, people won't even recognize the area.
Construction to alter utilities along Georgia Avenue has already begun. In two years, workers will begin raising Georgia Avenue so it will run above Randolph Road to relieve congestion at the intersection.
A similar project was done in Burtonsville at Route 29 and Old Columbia Pike. With an altered route, many commuters now bypass shopping centers at that intersection.
"This won't be that situation," said Cantor. "Traffic on Georgia will not be affected in anyway. ... This will not create any major barrier to the shopping center."
Cantor says the main priority is to relieve congestion at a "failed intersection." According to the county planning department, it has already significantly improved over the past two years: It is now the 26th most congested intersection in Montgomery County, while it was ranked No. 2 in 2008.
Cantor added that the Greater Glenmont Civic Association and shop owners are slated to schedule a meeting with officials from the State Highway Administration to talk about the construction project on Georgia Avenue.
Kumaroo says with more accessibility, more people will be coming to the area.
Ideas for the shopping center have been bounced around the Glenmont Sector Plan since the mid-90s.
Staff writer Amber Parcher contributed to this article.