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300 residential units planned at Hunt Valley Towne Centre

Up to 300 residential units may soon be added at the Hunt Valley Towne Centre in the space vacated first by Wal-Mart and then by Best Buy, the developer confirmed Tuesday.

The busy development originally opened as the Hunt Valley Mall in 1981, but the 90,000-square-foot suburban retail center has been reinvented since then.

Donna Sills, executive vice president and general counsel for Greenberg Gibbons, the developer, said the company is also negotiating with two new businesses to fill space vacated last year by Best Buy.

“We’re trying to make that end of the center as successful as the rest of the center,” Sills said.

The Hunt Valley Mall opened 32 years ago as an indoor mall with two anchors, Bamberger’s and Sears, and several smaller retailers and a food court.

Because of competition in Owings Mills, Towson and White Marsh, shoppers did not patronize the mall as expected over the years, and after Bamberger’s was bought out by Macy’s, that department store closed, leaving Sears as the only anchor.

The conversion to the outdoor-based Towne Centre was hailed as an attempt to revive the development in the early 2000s. Today, the center is anchored by Sears, Wegmans and Burlington Coat Factory among a total of 50 retailers and restaurants. A freestanding multiplex movie theater is located in the rear of the development.

Recent additions include a Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant that opened last year in a remote corner of the parking lot. Construction of a larger store for Calvert Wine & Spirits is expected to be completed this spring.

The development’s vacancies have been few. Last May, Best Buy shuttered its Hunt Valley location as the company underwent a national restructuring. Also, Filene’s Basement last year vacated a 30,386-square-foot upper-level store there, which also remains empty.

Two new retailers are also negotiating to move into the former Best Buy space, located near a Greene Turtle restaurant and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Sills declined to name them because negotiations were incomplete.

The apartment venture could be slower to build, she said.

Greenberg Gibbons two years ago won county approval to build a complex on York Road nearby. That approval is under renegotiation for the Towne Centre site — and at the same time, Sills said, Greenberg Gibbons is negotiating with possible developers for the residential units.

The apartments will be located near the Hunt Valley light rail stop at the Towne Centre.

“We think there’s tremendous demand,” she said. “That will be an amenity.”

Steve Spund, chairman of the Hunt Valley Business Forum and co-owner of Greetings & Readings at the Hunt Valley Towne Centre, said Tuesday the addition of residential units and new retail would enhance the Towne Centre.

“It’s worked in Columbia. It’s worked in Owings Mills,” Spund said. “It would be great here, obviously, because when you have people living near a retail establishment, they will be the first to patronize the stores there.”