Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie, MD: Past, Present, and Future

The Inception and Early Years of Marley Station Mall

Introduction to Marley Station Mall

Marley Station Mall, a significant commercial hub in Glen Burnie, Maryland, opened its doors on February 24, 1987.

Developed by Taubman Centers, a notable name in the shopping center industry, the mall initially boasted two major anchor stores: Hecht’s and Macy’s.

This opening marked a new era in the retail landscape of Anne Arundel County, offering a diverse range of shopping experiences to the local community.

Expansion and Growth

The mall’s journey of expansion began in 1994, with the addition of JCPenney, a highly requested store among patrons, enhancing the mall’s appeal.

Following this, in 1996, Sears joined the mall as the fourth anchor, replacing an older Sears in Glen Burnie that had been operational since the 1960s.

These expansions increased the mall’s retail space and diversified its offerings, making it a go-to destination for things to do in Baltimore, Maryland.

The early years of Marley Station Mall set the stage for its role as a central shopping and social destination in Glen Burnie.

Its development, anchored by major retail players and marked by significant expansions, reflected the region’s growing demand for comprehensive shopping experiences.

Unique Beginnings

Marley Station Mall’s history is tinged with a unique and somewhat mysterious beginning. During its construction in 1985, a body was discovered in a trash can on the site.

This body was not identified until 2019, when it was confirmed to be Roger Kelso’s. This discovery added an unexpected chapter to the mall’s history, intertwining local lore with its commercial narrative.

Changes and Challenges in the 2000s

Ownership and Management Shifts

In 2004, Marley Station Mall experienced a change in ownership when it was sold to Mills Corporation, which later became part of the larger Simon Property Group.

This transition marked a new phase in the mall’s management and strategic direction. In 2013, The Woodmont Company, based in Dallas/Fort Worth, was appointed receiver to manage and lease the mall.

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This appointment came amidst a loan dispute involving Bank of America and Simon Property Group, indicating the beginning of financial challenges for the mall.

Anchor Store Replacements and Closures

The 2000s brought notable changes in the mall’s anchor stores. In 2006, Macy’s, following its parent company’s acquisition of Hecht’s, relocated to the Hecht’s building.

This move led to selling Macy’s original location to Boscov’s. However, Boscov’s tenure at the mall was short-lived, as the store closed in 2008 due to the chain’s bankruptcy proceedings.

These anchor store changes significantly impacted the mall’s retail dynamics and shopper appeal.

Marley Station Mall
Marley Station Mall” by dan reed! is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Economic Struggles and Vacancy Rates

Marley Station Mall faced economic challenges, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis. The mall’s vacancy rate, a critical indicator of its health, significantly increased.

In 2012, the vacancy rate had risen to 44%, up from 33% a year earlier. This increase clearly showed the mall’s struggle to retain tenants and attract shoppers, reflecting broader economic challenges in the retail sector.

The Transformation of Space

CyberNAP Data Center

In a notable shift from traditional retail, the largest single building at Marley Station Mall, formerly occupied by Boscov’s, was purchased by AiNET in January 2012.

This space was transformed into the CyberNAP data center, a significant move that repurposed retail space for technological use.

The data center, occupying three stories, represented a modern adaptation of mall space, aligning with the growing demand for digital infrastructure.

AiNET’s Expansion Plans

In June 2013, AiNET, which owned CyberNAP, expressed interest in expanding the data center throughout the entire mall.

This ambitious plan highlighted a potential shift in the mall’s purpose from a retail center to a tech hub.

However, The Woodmont Co., managing the mall, stated that there were no plans to sell or close the mall.

Instead, they focused on increasing occupancy by retaining existing tenants and leasing current vacancies.

Impact of Digital Transformation

The introduction of the CyberNAP data center at Marley Station Mall indicated a broader trend in the transformation of traditional retail spaces.

As consumer behavior shifts and digital needs grow, malls like Marley Station find new ways to remain relevant and financially viable.

This transformation reflects the evolving nature of commercial real estate and the need for adaptive reuse strategies in the face of changing retail landscapes.

Financial Struggles and Auctions

Debt and Appraisal Issues

Marley Station Mall’s financial health became a growing concern as Moody’s Investors Service reported on the mall’s debt situation.

In their 2015 report, Moody’s indicated a near-term rollover risk and advised investors to expect significant losses on their investments.

The situation worsened by 2016, with the mall accounting for 29% of the remaining funds in a commercial mortgage-backed security.

All classes of debt were rated below investment grade or in default, reflecting the mall’s precarious financial position.

Auction Events

The mall’s financial struggles led to it being put up for auction. In September 2016, Marley Station was listed on the Ten-X website with a starting bid of $5 million.

This auction followed a rebuffed offer of $10 million by AiNET. The auction concluded on October 19, 2016, with the mall being sold by LNR Properties LLC to G.L. Harris for $22.7 million, a figure revealed after the closing in December 2016.

LNR Properties had acquired the property from TKL East, who obtained it through foreclosure from the original owner, Simon Property Group.

The Impact of Financial Instability

The financial instability of Marley Station Mall, highlighted by its declining appraisal value, is emblematic of the challenges many traditional malls face.

The fluctuating ownership and financial distress reflect the broader struggles within the retail sector, particularly for malls failing to adapt to changing consumer preferences and the rise of online shopping.

The Decline of Traditional Retail Anchors

Closure of Sears

In a significant blow to the mall’s traditional retail lineup, Sears announced its closure in November 2020, with the store finally shutting its doors on January 24, 2021.

This departure left JCPenney and Macy’s as the only traditional anchor stores remaining in the mall.

The closure of Sears, a long-standing retail giant, underscored the ongoing challenges traditional department stores face in the evolving retail landscape.

Marley Station Mall
Marley Station Mall” by dan reed! is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Remaining Anchors

Despite these challenges, Marley Station Mall continues to be anchored by JCPenney and Macy’s, along with Gold’s Gym, which adds a fitness dimension to the mall’s offerings.

These remaining anchors are crucial in drawing foot traffic and maintaining the mall’s relevance in the community.

However, their presence also highlights the shift in consumer preferences, with an increasing emphasis on diverse and experiential offerings beyond traditional retail.

The decline of traditional retail anchors at Marley Station Mall reflects a broader trend in the retail industry.

Consumers increasingly turn to online shopping and seek more experiential and service-oriented options when they visit malls.

This shift necessitates reimagining the traditional mall model, creating a multi-faceted experience beyond conventional retail, including entertainment, dining, and other lifestyle services.

Current State and Future Prospects

Recent Developments

In a significant turn of events, Marley Station Mall was sold to a New York-based partnership consisting of Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group on June 14, 2022.

This acquisition signaled a new chapter for the mall, with the new owners announcing an “aggressive leasing strategy” to revitalize the mall and improve its current vacancy rates.

This strategy is pivotal for the mall’s future as it seeks to adapt to the changing retail landscape and consumer preferences.

Current Tenant Mix

As of December 2023, Marley Station Mall hosts diverse tenants, ranging from traditional retail stores to unique local businesses and entertainment options.

Current tenants include Bay Jewelers – Pandora, Beauty Trend, Beefalo Bob’s Catering, Braiding Center, Carnage Gaming & Kicks, and Horizon Cinemas.

This eclectic mix caters to a wide range of consumer interests and reflects the mall’s efforts to diversify its offerings beyond conventional retail.

Future Outlook

The success of Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie, MD, will be determined by how well it can adjust to the ever-changing retail landscape.

As online shopping grows and consumer preferences shift, the mall must provide an experience beyond the usual shopping norms.

This could include incorporating more entertainment and dining options, hosting community events, and creating a space that serves as a social and cultural hub for Glen Burnie and the surrounding areas.

The Holiday Train Garden Saga at Marley Station Mall

The Holiday Train Garden, a beloved feature for over three decades in Anne Arundel County, encountered a significant challenge due to a drastic rent increase.

Initially, the rent for the Train Garden was a modest $65 per month. However, in a surprising turn of events, the new mall management proposed an increase to $2,500 per month.

Despite attempts to negotiate with the mall’s management, no successful agreement was reached.

This situation led to the dismantling of the Train Garden for the 2023 season, disappointing many visitors and volunteers alike.

The Train Garden, known for its intricate displays featuring 15 tracks of trains, cars, and even aliens, had become an integral part of the mall’s annual holiday celebrations.

The Train Garden was not just a source of holiday joy but also played a charitable role. Admission was free, but donations collected were used to feed the hungry in Anne Arundel County.

The community met the potential loss of this attraction with dismay and frustration, highlighting the garden’s value beyond just being a festive display.

In a late development on December 21, the mall’s management announced an extension of the Train Garden’s lease until 2026, ensuring its continued presence as a key feature of the holiday shopping experience.

However, this offer came too late for the 2023 season, as the dismantling process had already begun. The Train Garden’s team is now looking for a new location in Northern Anne Arundel County for the 2024 season and beyond.

This episode at Marley Station Mall underscores the challenges faced by traditional mall attractions in adapting to new management and economic realities.

The Train Garden’s struggle and eventual lease extension reflect the complex dynamics between commercial interests and community values in the evolving retail landscape.


Reflecting on Marley Station Mall’s Journey

Marley Station Mall‘s journey from its inception in 1987 to its current state in 2023 is a testament to the evolving nature of retail and consumer behavior.

The mall has experienced significant changes, from expansions and the introduction of major anchor stores to facing financial struggles and changes in ownership.

Each phase of its history reflects broader retail industry trends and the challenges traditional shopping malls face.

The Challenges of Traditional Malls

Marley Station Mall’s story highlights the challenges traditional malls face in an era of digital transformation and shifting consumer preferences.

The decline of anchor stores, the need for financial restructuring, and the repurposing of mall space are issues that many malls across the country are grappling with.

Marley Station’s response to these challenges, including diversifying its tenant mix and focusing on experiential offerings, provides insights into potential strategies for mall revitalization.

Potential Paths Forward

Marley Station Mall’s future, like that of many traditional malls, will likely involve a continued shift towards creating a multi-use space that offers a variety of experiences.

This could include focusing on community engagement, integrating technology and digital experiences, and creating a destination offering more than just shopping.

As consumer habits continue to evolve, malls like Marley Station must innovate and adapt to remain relevant and vibrant centers of community life.

Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of Laurie Hawkins
    Laurie Hawkins

    wish they’re WERE some concrete plans to bring businesses back to MARLEY STATION MALL. Bring some outside unattached activities facilities like a roller skating rink, bowling alley are just some examples of bringing or targeting that generation of people to the area as well as some indoor attractions like Get air. as far as the elderly maintaining Macy’s. Maybe a belks or a baskets. Focusing on handicap accessible items areas are extremely important these days.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Your vision for Marley Station Mall is inspiring. Including entertainment facilities and maintaining key stores could indeed attract a diverse crowd. It’s essential to consider the needs of older people and those with disabilities.

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