By Mike Schuh

COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — Soon, the Mall in Columbia will have a new look. They’re following a trend seen here and around the country called “De-Malling.”

Mike Schuh explains.

The Mall in Columbia has an unusual problem: it’s fully leased and it needs more space. Symbolic wall demolition highlights what’s going to happen.

“It’s about 12 retail stores and a couple of restaurants–about the size of a wing,” said General Manager Katie Essing.

These stores will have outdoor entrances off a main pedestrian street. It’s called “De-Malling.”

“We now have a population that demands a thriving town center. Not just a mall, but a mall that works with a town center and that’s what today is all about,” said County Executive Ken Ulman.

The one and a half million square foot main indoor mall will remain. The addition is a modest 40,000 square feet. To make it happen, L.L. Bean will close and the building will be demolished.

The new space, they say, is key to keeping the mall fresh.

“Well, it’s a popular concept because people like that feeling of being outdoors and have that shopping. The beauty of having the two integrate is that we always don’t have beautiful days. It’s pretty miserable out there so people don’t want to be out there so this is the best of both worlds,” Essing said.

From a county perspective, it’s the kind of reinvestment the county executive loves to see.

“In fact, Jim Rouse was quoted. When asked why we didn’t see the Tivoli Gardens vision of downtown didn’t happen with people outside, he said the mall guys won. Basically, they put the downtown in the mall and that worked for a long time, but now with the Lakefront, Merriweather, Symphony Woods, we do have a thriving mall. It’s how we work them all together,” Ulman said.

Some of this should be open by Christmas season next year and the rest by the middle of next year.

The owner of the mall declined to say how much their construction project will cost.

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