New Carrollton Mall will undergo a major face lift, with a Lowe's home-improvement store as a new anchor in a project that business and government leaders hope will attract more companies and big-name department stores to retail-starved, inside-the-Beltway communities in Prince George's County.

The mall's developer, Carrollton Enterprises Management Co., has signed a 20-year lease with Lowe's Co., and another with Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp. to expand its existing store. The retailers will spend a total of $6.5 million to rebuild and renovate the deteriorating, mostly vacant mall and will hire up to 275 employees after they open, 18 months to two years from now.

Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry said the mall is an economic shot in the arm for the city of New Carrollton and surrounding communities.

"You can't have a healthy community without a healthy merchant community," Curry said during a news conference announcing the project. "It is important to have a broad and balanced array of retail" to draw more businesses to the area, he said.

Residents have long complained that major upscale retailers pass over Prince George's County, even though the county's average household income surpasses state and national averages. The majority of the county's population is black, leading many to accuse retailers of racial redlining.

Residents such as John and Lois Shelton, who have lived in New Carrollton for 40 years, just want things at the mall to get better. With the make-over of their once-favorite outlet, they believe that new retail opportunities are on the horizon.

"We have been praying for some changes," they said as they looked at plans for the new shopping outlet.

Curry said Albert Turner, one of the county's biggest developers, is "putting his money where his mouth is" by not abandoning the mall, which has been troubled for a decade. Because it is located in a zone the county has designated for revitalization, the new tenants will receive an 80 percent reduction in real estate taxes in the first year, with the benefit phasing out after four years.

More than 20 smaller stores--including a multiplex movie theater--will be demolished to clear space for the free-standing, $3.5 million Lowe's. Plans call for 130,000 square feet of retail space and a 30,000-square-foot garden center, much like its home-improvement center in Bowie and its planned store in Largo, said Andre Gingles, a lawyer representing Lowe's.

Shoppers Warehouse will spend $3 million to double the size of its 30,000-square-foot store and add amenities like those in its College Park store, including a pharmacy, bank, cafe and expanded deli, said company President William White. About 75 additional employees will be hired to staff the expanded store, White said.

The remaining 25,000 square feet of space in the mall will be occupied by about five smaller businesses, Turner said. He said he is targeting upscale retailers and hopes to secure them by next year.

Some of the owners of stores now open in the mall say that crime, and later negligence by the mall's management, have contributed to the retail center's gradual decline. With more than half the mall's stores vacated and almost no one walking its halls, remaining tenants say Carrollton Enterprises never cared about the mom-and-pop shops and didn't help them market the mall.

"The management has been totally unconcerned about developments in the area," said Vinod Goel, who has owned and operated International Bazaar, a gift shop, for almost 20 years. Goel and other store owners have been told to vacate the premises by the middle of the month. Renovations are expected to begin in early spring.

William C. Harrison, director of leasing and development for Carrollton Enterprises, acknowledged that the mall has deteriorated over the past decade. "We have to have an anchor to bring in small tenants," he said of the mall's low occupancy rate. But he added that the company has helped tenants of the New Carrollton Mall find space at other malls in the area.

Staff writer Hamil Harris contributed to this report.