Volume 12, Issue 24 ~ June 10-16, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

The Transformation of Parole Plaza
Annapolis Town Center at Parole is way better than you remember

If the saga of Parole Plaza were a fairy tale, we’d be at the lives-happily-ever-after section.

For the blighted frog-prince stationed at the southern gate of the capital city, long years of bewitchment have ended. His princess has finally ransomed him. The ransom was not a kiss but $25 million.

Now, his transformation is at hand. His future is stately, imagined in the architecture of castles, turrets and watercourses. Even his name is changed. From Parole Plaza — whose Civil War legacy is tarnished by the parole’s modern usage — he is now Annapolis Town Center at Parole.

That’s the tale as it took shape this spring [“Battling for Parole” Bay Weekly, Vol. XII, No. 18: April 29]. The happily-ever-after future was sketched in this month, at the first public meeting on the Erwin L. Greenberg Commercial Corporation’s plans for 33-acre site.

Speaking to the Anne Arundel Commercial and Industrial Association, an industry group, Greenberg reaffirmed — to applause — news reported in Bay Weekly on May 13. “We have settled on the property. We have the deed.”

Then company president and CED Brian Gibbons outlined a $400 million transformation for what he called a “powerful presence.” The plan is, Gibbons said, “in its early conceptual stage,” but he professed himself “pretty confident it’s pretty close to what it will look like.”

The dilapidated parking lot facing Route 2 will yield to some kind of a “water feature.” The water is a lake with fountains in the architect’s conception and might do double duty as a stormwater retention pond. In the backdrop as Gibbons spoke, fountains splashed on the ducky lake of the Village at Waugh Chapel, another Greenberg development.

The Route 2 frontage might get more dramatic if Greenberg accepts the dream of Martin Architects of Philadelphia for a facade of transparent masts, suggesting a northbound sailboat race.

“Drop-dead gorgeous,” said Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation president Bill Badger, quoting county executive Janet Owens’ assessment of the fairy-tale village of the future.

Beyond the watery facade, Greenberg is talking big, which may be why Parole is named a town center rather than, like Waugh Chapel, a village. With 1,781,600 square feet compressed into 32 acres, Parole is, said Gibbons, “more than double the density on half the land of Waugh.”

Behind the watery facade, Gibbons promises “a real pedestrian center,” developed along a main street with 20-foot sidewalks that stretch from Route 2 to Riva Road. The main street will be developed, in phases one through five, into an eventual town center balancing 685 dwellings (rental and condo) with 608,000 square feet of retail and 120,000 square feet of office space. Phase III will eventually add at least 200 hotel rooms. How many depends on whether neighboring Day’s Inn will sell at a price Greenberg will buy.

The town center, at least in part, is tall as well as big. At both Route 2 and Riva Road entrances, tall multi-use buildings frame the development. Above a couple of retail floors, apartments rise to 10 stories on Route 2 and 11 stories on Riva. Closest to Riva, Phase II will bring two 16-story condos. Above six stories, the dwellings get the bonus of a Bay view.

All this change is a little slow for fairy-tale progressions, but it’s on the fast track of real time. “We’re not talking 10 years,” said Gibbons. “Three to five years is the right time.”

You’ll see change even sooner, though not of the fairy-tale sort. “Within 30 days,” Gibbons promises to “knock down the existing mall.

“We have the permit. We want everybody to know we’re serious,” he said.

About the same time, the old Baltimore Gas & Electric store will become a working office, staffed by all the project’s developers and displaying architectural drawings of Annapolis Town Center at Parole. Citizens will be welcome to drop in, Gibbons promised.

So far, Annapolis Town Center at Parole is a fairy-tale village without residents. No leases have been signed, Gibbons said, nor has anyone been ruled out.

That includes Wal-Mart, the most controversial potential corporate citizen of the new town center. For five years, the giant corporation had paid $1 million annually to keep its interest in Parole. It had even, in negotiations with Greenberg, broken its usual profile by agreeing to a two-floor store. Now, according to Gibbons, Wal-Mart has terminated its lease.

Whether that puts Wal-Mart out of the picture at Annapolis Town Center, Gibbons could not say. But, he said, they weren’t his dream tenant.

“We want something unique and different,” Gibbons said. “Everybody has Wal-Mart and Target. We want the kind of anchor everybody doesn’t have.”


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Ask the Plant Professor
Mulches for Trees and Against Cats

Q How can I keep my cats from using my flowerbeds as a cat box?

ARepellant commercial products are sold at garden centers. You can also use moth crystals or ammonia-soaked rags placed on the soil. Chicken wire laid on the ground will keep them out of a specific area. Because it is natural for cats to find someplace outdoors, perhaps you can make one area most attractive to your cat by keeping its soil light, dry and uncompacted, or try planting catnip there. Unless you have many cats using a small spot, feces should decompose quickly into fertilizer with no harm to your plants.

Q Our homebuilder put mounds of mulch around the young trees. Is it necessary? Can I let the grass grow closer?

A Research shows that mulch maximizes tree growth by reducing grass competition for nutrients and moisture. Mulch also protects trunks from mowers and string trimmers, prevents weed growth, conserves moisture and moderates soil temperature. It decomposes to add organics and nutrients to the soil.

Mulch no thicker than two inches and keep it away from the trunk. ‘Mulch volcanoes’ can hurt the tree. Mulch new trees out as far as the spread of the branches. Older trees also benefit from mulch. We have a free mulch brochure.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

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The Sun Always Shines on Calvert Marine Museum
4,600 rock with Bonnie Raitt at Waterside

When Bonnie Raitt sang, “Let’s give ’em something to talk about!” near the end of Sunday night’s Waterside series concert at the Calvert Marine Museum, she’d already bestowed that gift several times over. A crowd of about 4,600 — some enjoying the music from their seats, others dancing and socializing under the trees and near the bars and eateries — enjoyed the mild late-spring night, the music of Raitt and the smoldering gospel-rockers the Holmes Brothers, the company and the setting.

It was the smallest venue Raitt and her band played in their recent four-date tour. She had packed Virginia’s Wolf Trap the previous two nights, with a total attendance of more than 13,000. The Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, the group’s destination on Monday, holds more than 6,000 people.

But small equaled beautiful for Raitt, whose between-song comments were often about the lovely setting. “It’s so beautiful around here; I could spend the summer here!” she said, later remarking that it was the first time she’d arrived at a gig by boat. At the climax of a rollicking performance of “Thing Called Love,” the tiny, 54-year-old blues-rocker climbed atop bandmate Jon Cleary’s keyboard, stretched out face-down, and wiggled her heels in delight. When she was back on her feet, she crowed, “Too much crab cake for me!”

Those intoxicating crab cakes, says Melissa Carnes, the museum’s public relations coordinator, came from the concert’s caterer, Mom’s in the Kitchen, of Prince Frederick. In addition to providing food for performers, Mom’s was one of the vendors in the food court, which also featured pit beef, Asian barbecued chicken and pizza. “We hope they stick with us for a long time,” Carnes said of the vendors.

A pool of longtime vendors, as well as sponsorship from Ralph’s Dodge and Cumberland & Erly, LLC, of Prince Frederick, all support the Waterside series, which in turn supports the museum. The nonprofit Calvert County museum is responsible for 35 to 40 percent of its own budget, via the Calvert Marine Museum Society, and a good bit of that comes from the concerts.

“There’s a direct correlation between sitting in those seats and helping our museum run day to day,” Carnes said. “Generally, the two concerts that we do are responsible for several salaries here at the museum.”

The amount raised by this concert won’t be totaled for another four to five months, Carnes said. But it’s typically in the tens of thousands.

In its 18th year, the series will put on a total of three major shows this summer in the Washington Gas Pavilion: country legend Merle Haggard is coming on July 18, and the third concert is yet to be announced.

Experience hasn’t solved one problem of the venue: the packed-in folding chairs, whose width is not well-suited to longtime aficionados of crab cakes and Coors. Carnes acknowledges that the seating is tight, but it’s a matter of fitting in as many people as possible. (The Raitt show sold out weeks beforehand.) The Haggard concert will revert to the museum’s old-time seating. “We’re going to sell 2,500 reserved seats,” says Carnes. “Beyond that will be standing room only or blanket seating.”

Such an arrangement would have been fine with Lynne Bill of Hollywood, one of many who forsook the chairs for boogying room along the sides of the seating area. “We’ve been wanting to get out here for years,” said first-timer Bill, whose Raitt-fan friends had a pre-show party at her house. Then she went back to swaying to the blues.

The Raitt concert continued Waterside’s winning streak of good music, good fun and good weather.

“It rained at the Virginia show, didn’t it?” asked Walt Stone of St. Leonard, grabbing a drink at the back bar. Informed that yes, it was soggy for two days, Stone affirmed smugly, “We knew we’d have good weather. We’re in Solomons now! The sun always shines in Solomons.”

—Pamela Murray Winters

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D.C. Dispatch: Ronald Reagan’s Return
Small details on a day that looms large

All is quiet in the Capitol as Washington waits to say farewell to President Ronald Reagan. In the Rotunda at noon on June 9, workers put finishing touches on lighting and readied the platform that will hold his casket just as it held President Abraham Lincoln’s. Tonight and tomorrow, the 40th president will lie in state, a term only applied to presidents, in that massive temple designed to resemble the Pantheon but adorned with paintings and relief sculptures depicting scenes from America’s history.

At the same hour, before the dead president’s body even left California, people were lining up along Constitution Avenue. On beach chairs and supplied with water, they didn’t seem to notice the very warm and sticky day. Camera crews were already poised on the west front of the Capitol.

Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman, wearing a straw hat and dark blue wool suit, stood at the entry point for the caisson. A few feet away, a worker painted one of the huge concrete flower containers that also serves as a security barrier. “We’re ready,” Hantman said, looking back down the parade route the caisson could climb to the Capitol Hill.

—M.L. Faunce

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Way Downstream …

In Virginia, a Philip Morris plant dumps 108,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution annually into the James River, a major Chesapeake Bay tributary, according to recent disclosures. The company says it has reduced its nutrient releases, but anti-smoking folks see the company as a double menace…

In California, readers of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times got a glimpse of part of our world in a long story under the headline “Chesapeake Bay’s Idyllic Isle.” The reporter wrote of Tangier Island: “There are no stoplights, no movie theaters, no McDonald’s, no jail, no supermarkets, no malls, no alcohol (though I overheard one man say that no alcohol is available or sold, but “plenty is brought in and drank”)…

Our Creature Feature comes from London, where researcher Victoria de Rijke, of Middlesex University, set out to answer this question: “Do ducks around the world quack the same way?”

We didn’t see her listening to the ducks at Bay Weekly or elsewhere in Chesapeake Country, but she concluded that at least in Britain, city ducks quack louder. “There are definite differences between them, with the London ducks noisier, laughing raucously, and the Cornish ones soft and chilled out,” she said.

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© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.