The Malling of Chesapeake Country
How many more malls do we need?
Weve been puzzling over that question looking at re-development plans at Parole, Annapolis first shopping mall.
As they used to say in those cigarette ads, youve come a long way baby. There are people alive today who remember when Annapolis had no shopping malls. In case you dont remember, you went downtown to shop.
But as always happens with malls, Parole faded and Annapolis Mall rose and spread through multiple enlargements. Meanwhile, an entire quadrant of the Annapolis-Parole corridor became one massive shopping town with lots of little village-like names, including Festival at Riva and Annapolis Harbour Center.
Now, along with the redevelopment of Parole and the commercial mushrooming at Edgewater, construction has begun at still another massive retail complex at the intersection of Routes 2 and 214. It is being referred to as the last commercial piece of South River Colony.
We dont find the last part of that description entirely believable, but were at least happy that developers seemingly have chosen an aesthetic design rather than what we like to call Bypass Chic.
Still, were troubled that what were seeing south of Annapolis is a good imitation of the non-stop shopping strip stretching up Ritchie Highway from Arnold to Baltimore.
Meanwhile, fast-developing Calvert County is not being left behind. Shopping centers are such a boom business in Calvert that new life has come to its earliest development, and additional shopping strips have popped up across the street and virtually everywhere until shopping in Prince Frederick has spread northward to Huntingtown, which has its own new crop of mini-malls. North on Route 4, Dunkirk is as mall-friendly as Edgewater. Down south, two strip-malls are in competition in Lusby, and Solomons shopping outskirts are sprawling northward.
Wheres it going to stop? Will our grandchildren be shopping at South River On the River and Patuxent River Floating Mall?
Seems that no matter how many malls are built, even in this supposedly bad economy, parking spaces are hard to find from the day a new center opens.
Forget about baseball; shopping is clearly Americas pastime.
Why are we concerned? One reason is that we are watching sprawl at its worst. Fly over Annapolis in a small plane and you will be shocked at what you see and what you dont.
Second, these town centers the zoning designation concocted to control sprawl remain soul-less excuses for towns, offering little more than shopping. Towns, some of our older readers may remember, were people-friendly enclaves where you could walk from place to place homes, parks, meeting halls, schools, churches and small businesses.
Speaking of small businesses, fewer can survive these malls and shopping centers dominated by corporate chains and mega-anchor stores packed with Chinese-made goods.
The malling of Chesapeake Country has given us too much of a good thing. Just as when we shop in those mega-stores where you can buy everything from couches to cabbages to gasoline, weve lost sight of when to say when weve had enough.