Security Square Mall is a large, 1 million square foot enclosed mall located in the western suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Until it came time to write this post, I didn’t actually realize that Security Square Mall is technically located in Baltimore, albeit an unincorporated section of Baltimore outside of the western edge of the I-695 beltway on Security Boulevard. Named for the massive Social Security Administration offices which are adjacent to the center, its location is decidedly suburban.
Built in 1972, the 120-store Security Square Mall is laid out in a large eagle-shaped pattern, with a long, curved main hallway crossed by a large straight hallway. Hecht’s anchors the northern end of the straight cross hallway, and the two ends of the long “wingspan” of the mall are Sears and Modell’s Sporting Goods. The Modell’s space was occupied by Montgomery Ward until the chain’s closure in 2001. The mall has been renovated twice, in 1988 and 1998. Judging by the extensive use of sepia-toned neon throughout the center, I’m guessing that the 1998 renovation was the more minor of the two. The Floridian color scheme and impressively animated shopping bag logo pin it pretty closely to the late 1980s.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Security Square Mall was the anchor at the opposite end of the “straight” wing from Hecht’s. Originally a JCPenney, the space was overtaken in 2003 by “Seoul Plaza,” a two level extension of the mall itself wherein the anchor store was converted to small stores and a common mall area. This “mall within a mall” still includes the escalators from the original JCPenney, and is leased entirely to stores selling Korean goods including a grocery store. For the life of me I don’t know why I didn’t take more pictures of this feature, but here’s the one I did take:
Once Baltimore’s premiere shopping destination, Security Square Mall today seems to suffer from the competition of even more dominant malls. The massive, high-end Mall at Columbia Town Centre is only about ten miles to the south, and the Owings Mills Mall–a large, two-level mall that has also struggled some in recent years–is located about ten miles to the north. Both of these other malls seem to benefit from being located in areas that are at least perceived to be safer. My own visit to Security Square was cut somewhat short (hence the shortage of photos of the exterior) because a particular group of mall patrons, unhappy with our presence, decided to make an unwelcoming comment of a racial nature. While I am certain that these young women did not speak for mall management or the vast majority of the mall’s patrons, it did hang like a pall on the visit and lead us to choose not to linger.
It is unfortunately a sad reality–painted very vividly in the shopping malls throughout the United States–that people of different races or economic classes are still so frequently segregated, even in where they shop. This is, however, a much larger topic for another day. Note this passage from an article on the mall on Security Management.com in 2001:
Crime notwithstanding, the ownership situation may have been the most damaging of the contributing factors, because it ushered in an era of neglect in which the proprietors displayed a lack of interest in the mall’s success. That neglect manifested itself in deteriorating physical conditions and expanding vacancies. It hurt morale among the management team. It was also noticed by shoppers and the community. As a result, business declined.
The situation began to change in 1997, however, when the mall was purchased by Capitol Investment Associates. The firm took a hard look at the facility, from leasing to property management to marketing, with an eye toward improving all aspects of the mall.
The article is right in that management has clearly made major upgrades to maintain the cleanliness of the mall, and these upgrades are noticeable. As you can see from the photos, Security Square is very well kept-up and mostly leased with first or second-tier tenants and it continues to be a successful mid-tier mall today.