By Mallory Panuska, Frederick News Post
Friday, March 30, 2018

WarehouseCinemasWith leather reclining chairs and alcoholic beverages to boot, a portion of the long-shuttered Frederick Towne Mall site could become the next destination spot for watching the latest new releases.

Representatives of a Hagerstown-based company announced Thursday they are leasing the east side portion of the property from owners West Frederick Center LLLP for development of a Warehouse Cinemas premium movie theater.

The company is a venture of Hagerstown-based HighRock Group, and representatives boast amenities that include first-run movies and reclining leather seats in a modern-industrial decor with a variety of food and drink options, including beer, wine and specialty drinks.

“Obviously, we’re excited,” Mayor Michael O’Connor said Thursday of the new project. “Our residents have been waiting for a long time to see something happen with that property, and after a couple of false starts, the new owners have apparently made contact with somebody who is signing on the lease.”

West Frederick Center LLLP, a limited liability limited partnership company that formed in January, bought the 37.35-acre site at 1301 W. Patrick St. in mid-February for $6 million. Frederick urologist Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin is listed as the resident agent of the company.

The mall was once the hub of the busy and vibrant Golden Mile but has sat vacant since 2013. The property went on the market in September 2016 after plans to construct a four-building shopping center with a 155,000-square-foot Walmart anchor store fell through.

The theater is set to take up only a portion of the mall property, and O’Connor said he is unsure if any prospective tenants are eyeing the rest of the space.

According to a news release from HighRock issued Thursday, full renovations are planned for the interior and a “major overhaul” is slated for the exterior of the property to accommodate the new project.

The company did not have a timeline for the theater project’s completion Thursday, but a news release said an opening is planned for sometime in 2018. Greg Mills, the chief operating officer of HighRock Group, declined to comment further via email Thursday on the lease details.

Warehouse Cinemas operates a similar theater outside of Hagerstown, but the company plans to make the Frederick location its “flagship” property, according to its website. The website also includes a virtual tour of what the inside is set to look like.

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said Thursday the planned theater is a perfect fit for the site, especially since it is set for development at the site of the former Hoyt’s Frederick Towne Mall Cinema 10 that was part of the old mall.

“The Golden Mile remains one of the strongest retail corridors in the city with more than 50,000 vehicle trips going past most of those retail sites every day, and the opportunity for both the developer and new retail business to come into the Golden Mile is just an outstanding opportunity,” he said. “We are delighted to see entertainment as a component of the retail experience to help both strengthen and stabilize the mall location. Considering it was a theater before [and] it’s going to be a theater again, that’s a great reuse of the property.”

Deb Reynolds, co-president of the Golden Mile Alliance, also commented on the new project Thursday on behalf of the organization’s board.

“I can speak for the whole board of directors and say we are very, very happy,” she said. “I think it’s going to make a great addition to the [Golden Mile] and the whole city in general.”

She added that she is excited to see a tenant bringing an entertainment venue, as she expects it will attract patrons from the wider region. She also hopes it will serve as the catalyst to attract more tenants.

Griffin said he plans to work closely with the new tenant on any permitting or other assistance needed as the company works through renovations.

“Anytime you do adaptive reuse at an old space, there is going to be upgrading utilities, water and sewer, upgrading electric, installing new signage and facade improvements, maybe parking lot improvements, a number of different permits,” he said.

Tony Checchia, a broker and the owner of Verita Real Estate, spent months working with the tenant on the lease and said via email Thursday that he is still working with the mall owner to submit a proposal for the rear portion of the property where the Ollie’s building sits for a potential site for the new Frederick Police Department headquarters. A task force developed a Request for Information for site options for the headquarters that went out to the public in January and the deadline to submit responses is Friday. Checchia said he planned to submit a proposal before the deadline.