Wednesday, 09 April 2014 13:09

Patrons have had trouble navigating through the construction at Merritt Park Shopping Center. photo by Ben Boehl

Merritt Park construction gives rise to access issues

by Ben Boehl

There have been changes to the Merritt Park Shopping Center landscape, as much of the asphalt is gone from the center’s vast parking lot and has been replaced by islands of greenery.
    While beautification is generally welcome, the work at Merritt Park has not been without consequence, as shoppers have complained about difficulties navigating the maze of construction work to patronize the stores still operating in the center.
    Peter Grose, Vice President at Regional Management Inc., said that the new landscaping has always been part of the plan, and that the public is now seeing the execution of that plan.
    However, some shoppers have complained that the parking lot is too unorganized, with limited parking spaces, the blocking of entrances and exits and the placing of construction fences around the complex.
    Grose responded that he understands limited parking is an issue, but noted that the parking lot is under construction and that the current status is not the final product.
    “The [previous] center was one vast parking lot, and we wanted to make it more attractive,” Grose said.
    “This [construction] is because we are redesigning the parking lot. There may be some inconvenience because we are redoing the parking lot in sections.”
    Asked if he was worried that the now-limited parking could deter businesses from moving into the shopping center, Grose said he does not think it will be an issue.
    He added that he still cannot confirm any new tenants, but stated that Regional Management has had “positive and productive conversations” with potential tenants and does not think the construction of the parking lot will deter stores from locating at the shopping center.
    “I would certainly think they would understand that we are redesigning our parking lot. What it looks like today is different than what it will look like by next week.”
    Grose did not give a firm date to when the entire project — including the revamped parking lot and new stores — will be completed. He said Regional Management is working in phases and is currently focusing on a parking lot redesign.
    He also declined to speculate when that phase would be complete, noting the possibility of weather setbacks like the area saw with this past winter.
    “I really don’t have a time frame. I’m hoping it will be done with shortly.” Grose said.
    The Rite Aid pharmacy is moving to a stand-alone building at the corner of Searles Road and Holabird Avenue. Some Rite Aid employees have said that the building will be open and operating by summer, but there has been no official confirmation of an opening date.
    Meanwhile, there is concern about the impact of retail development at the North Point Government Center site directly across Merritt Boulevard, as Vanguard Commercial Development Inc. is in the process of completing its purchase of the property.
    With the future of the Government Center undecided and the possibility of future retail opportunities across the street, there is speculation that many tenants might not commit to Merritt Park until after the Government Center plans are finalized.
    Grose said he is aware of the Government Center situation but must ultimately focus on Merritt Park.
    “We have not taken a position on the Government Center one way or another. We are focused on our shopping center,” Grose said.
    “[If a retail project comes to the Government Center], it would certainly attract more retail, and it may create more competition. We will have to see how it plays out.”