Updated: Feb 4
Back in 2017, I had the privilege of stumbling upon the Kings Point Square Plaza by way of Dan Bell's video tour. From the street, you can't tell that this place even exists as an enclosed vintage gem. However, I can assure you, there is most certainly an interior space, which spans just over 75,000 square feet. Here is the script from ExLog 67 for your reading pleasure, along with some photos in a flickr album at the bottom of the page, which also showcases some original blueprints, zoning variance letters, and newspaper articles. Enjoy!
On August 7, 1976, Herbert A. Thaler, partner of the Baltimore-Based HMH Company, announced that the new Deer Park Shopping center was under construction, but was being held up due to community backlash, and delays in getting the new 76,000 sq ft complex hooked up to the sewage systems. As was typical back in the golden era of mall construction, local communities didn’t want the additional traffic in the streets which malls were generating…however, Thaler and his associates would prevail, and the first section of the shopping center opened on April 6, 1977 at the Deer Park Plaza, 9900 Liberty Road with the store “Hit or Miss” - Misses and Junior Sized Fashion at your Price ringing in the occasion. The plaza continued to take shape when a Safeway Grocery Store opened on Tuesday May 31 alongside “Hit or Miss”, with the first section being fully dedicated when a Drug Fair opened on July 18th 1977, paving the way for entrance into the pending enclosed section to the plaza, which was still under construction.
“Microwave Cooking Etc.” opened on Sept 15, 1977. They were enticing shoppers into their doors by holding a giveaway for a new microwave, along with cooking classes…for microwave recipes…. In their newspaper ad they stated, “This week, we’ll let you come to cooking school free. Whether you buy a [microwave] oven or not. Not just because we’re trying ot entice you into the store. But because we’re convinced professional instruction on the fine points of preparing food with a microwave oven will convince you that it saves time, money, energy and nutrients. And eliminates most of the drudgery of cooking.” They then go on to explain how microwaves work with barely scientific diagrams of radio waves, and how they agitate “food molecules” to heat up. It’s a charming look at life in the late 70’s, and a raw look into the origins of the infamous arch nemesis to Gordon Ramsay: Chef Mike
The Empire Realty Company began leasing retail space on Sept 15 1978 for the "Deer Park Mall”, marketing themselves as “The only enclosed mall outside the Beltway in Northwest Baltimore, with stalls ranging from 1,000 sq ft, to 4,000 sq ft. Then, there was a preview opening for the new baby mall at Deer Park Plaza between November 16th through the 19th, with Clowns, Balloons, Gifts for Kids, and a raffle to win a trip to Disney World just for showing up to see the space. The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies occurred on November 20th, 1978 for the Deer Park Mall, accompanied by it’s attached plaza counterpart with a Safeway Grocery Store, Drug Fair, Shoe Town and Hit or Miss serving as the main traffic generators for the enclosed portion, which was connected directly to the Drug Fair. Inside the mall were typical local offerings, such as an arcade, a Jewlery Store, Dentist, Hardware Store,and other smaller storefronts serving the local community. It was a hub for the Randallstown community, and offered an enclosed shopping experience in the Northwest region of Baltimore outside the Beltway.
Thaler filed a petition for a zoning variance on June 3rd 1982, stating “Due to high rates of interest (for money), we have a number of vacant stores. We feel that a restaurant will stimulate business.” The city council was very much in favor of this, saying “We believe that this new commercial establishment within the mall would give the center and all the associated merchants and businesses a much needed “shot in the arm.”. The plans were approved, and the owners brought the Dynasty Chinese Food restaurant/lounge to the plaza. A few years later, they put the Deer Park Plaza up for sale, and it was sold for $3.22mil in June 1987 to DP Limited Partnership, led by Frank Storch of the M. Leo Storch Development firm. They immediately changed the name of the plaza to the Kings Point Square Plaza, and announced a renovation to the property, which would bring a 40-lane Fair Lanes Bowling Center directly next to the mall, with the Baltimore-based Columbia Design Collective serving as chief architects for the project.
After working through zoning variances and city council stipulations, ground was broken for the bowling alley on January 6, 1989, and after about a year and a half of construction, the grand opening for the $3mil Kings Point Fair Lanes was held on Saturday, May 5th 1990. To celebrate the event, JD Roth from the Fun House TV show did a show for attendees, and they were charging $1.45 per game to get people to come in droves. The bowling alley was apparent only the 4th in the United States to have the “Bowlervision” system, which included modern computer scoring systems, video replays of bowlers shots, and automatic pin resetting. The Bowling Center also had a full service snack bar, a full service restaurant, and a liquor license to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks. To be completely honest, it sounds like an amazing time…it might just be the cabin fever from being stuck in my house since late February, but I’d totally crush an evening out to a bowling alley with all of these amenities. I think one of the main things that will come out of the Covid-19 pandemic is a renewed sense of appreciation for all of the things we can do in the world. I, for one, took lots of these things for granted for so long. Bowling alley? Nah, I’m good. Arcades and movie theatres, nahhh I can always go, I’m not into it today. Once it’s safe to do so, I’m going right out to bowl, and seeing all the movies. I really can’t wait to get back to normal.
So, the mall coasted through the 90’s, as most malls did. The Safeway shuttered to make way for a Food Lion, which opened on Monday, January 27, 1997. Moving into the new millennium, however, the Kings Point Square Mall and Plaza began to show its age, greying out in comparison to other local malls such as the Security Square Mall, which had been operating since 1972, and only about 15 minutes away…and the Towson Town Center which opened in 1952, but was enclosed in 1973. Towson Town got a massive renovation in 1991, adding a third and fourth floor, and was only about 20 minutes away from Kings Point Square. These two malls were super regional destinations for shoppers, and Kings Point would fade into obscurity as time went on, becoming more opaque to passers-by, and entering its final form as a grey ghost in the mid-00’s.
Sunday, July 3 2007, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roderick Green was stabbed outside the AMF Kings Point Lanes bowling center after a tense exchange with Chase Maran Willians, who was hopped up on drugs and booze, ensnared in delusions of “being Jesus Christ and living in the Matrix”. Mr. Green was discharged from the Sinai Hospital the next day, and was at training camp just a couple weeks later. I hope to see the Ravens playing again very soon. Football was another thing I took for granted, which I shall never do again.
Kings Point Square Plaza was sold to Philadelphia-based Kings Point Associates LLC on November 6, 2007 for $9.1mil, of which Lee Brahin was the managing partner. The property was officially listed in Brahin Properties catalog shortly thereafter. Actually, it’s listed on Brahin’s website to this day as if they were still the owners, but as you’ll hear in just a bit…they sold it. The AMF Kings Point Lanes shuttered, some time between late 2012 and early 2013, and the building and land were purchased by the DreamLife Worship Center, who, according to their website, completed the conversion of the space by Spring of 2015.
The Food Lion closed on Tuesday, January 19, 2016. By November of 2017, I showed up for the first time with my Canon 80D, and the old Food Lion space had been taken over by a Tractor Supply Co., and appeared to be generating tons of traffic, but none of the people seemed to be entering the baby-mall portion of Kings Point Square. I came back one month later with my iPhone to get some additional footage, and to get another idea as to how dead this space really is. I returned yet again on October 6, 2018 to find the space just as I had last seen it, but with no more Christmas flair. The Plaza changed hands again on December 17, 2018 when it was sold to CityWide Properties for $7.75mil, and remains untouched, looking exactly as it did when it was opened as the Deer Park Mall back in 1978.