The Kmart in the Kent Landing Shopping Center is the only large scale retail option in the county since its opening in 1994. In 2002, corporate restructuring, including a merger with Sears, resulted in the closing of many of Kmart locations across the country through 2018. It had appeared that Kent Island Kmart had weathered the storm, until it was announced by its owner, TransformCo, that the Stevensville, Maryland store would be closing by mid-December.
Upon hearing the news, Jean Fabi, Economic Development Manager for the Queen Anne’s County Department of Economic and Tourism, immediately reached out to the property management entity to offer assistance with identifying potential end users for the site, as well as helping Kmart employees find new jobs in the community. Fabi will be enlisting the help of the Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board and the state’s department of labor to assist with connecting employees with job opportunities.
Communities across the county are struggling with filling the large retail spaces left vacant as large retailers close. Recognizing that this is the county’s one and only “big box” location, a concerted effort is underway to assist with attracting a new anchor tenant or tenants, and to help identify uses, for the site. Fabi and County Administrator, Todd Mohn, P.E., contacted the Cordish Group, the property management entity for Kent Landing, LLC, the property owner, and provided demographic information to support the attraction of a well-rounded retail entity to meet the needs of the community. Discussions between the property management group and county representatives, including the department of planning and zoning, about the future retail use of the site have resulted in the introduction of a proposed change in the zoning code that would allow for flexibility in the amount of square footage dedicated to retail in the Urban Commercial District.
The proposal does not allow construction of any new “big box” locations in the county. The proposed text amendment will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at its November 14, 2019 meeting. The county’s Economic Development Commission, an appointed body that advises the County Commissioners on matters affecting the business community and economy, will also vet the proposed ordinance change at its next regular meeting on November 20, 2019. Agendas for the meetings can be found at www.qac.org. Queen Anne’s County is committed to working with all parties to find a suitable anchor tenant or tenants to meet the needs of the community.