Volume XVII, Issue 19 # MAY 7 - May 13, 2009

Letter From the Editor

Getting Used to Two Annapolis Centers

I’m extending my shopping range. And you?

Amy Chase, Whole Foods’ community liaison, used to grouse over the aging of her store at Annapolis Harbour Center. Still, she cried as its door closed behind her for the last time.

I’m feeling that way, too, as store after store leaves Annapolis Harbour Center.

Annapolis Harbour Center has always been a shopping center I liked. I could manage it or forgive it, even when parking lots were jammed and Christmas wreathes went up at Halloween. I’ve been in most every store a time or two, and some are regulars on my route.

In recent weeks, I’ve made my last Harbour Center visits to Bed Bath & Beyond, Eastern Mountain Sports, Whole Foods and Boaters World. The Boaters World chain is failing. The other three have moved to Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole.

So I’ll have to make peace with a fact I’ve been repressing. Indeed, we all will.

Convenience is one reason I dreaded the move. Harbour Center is on my side of town. Towne Centre at Parole is a half-mile and a few stoplights farther. Congestion is another. Throughout the Towne Centre’s construction, I expected and dreaded traffic jams, getting there and getting past it.

So far, that fear hasn’t been realized. Widened streets, new lanes and stop lights make pretty smooth passage; of course so far is before this week’s opening of that Big Three from Harbour Center, all on the north side of the Centre.

The fate of Harbour Center is another fear.

Yet Harbour Center retains over 40 active and attractive stores. The Fresh Market, a Greensboro, N.C.,-based chain of 87 stores selling high-end perishables in 18 states, is taking over Whole Foods’ space. Bed Bath & Beyond’s space is in negotiation.

“We are always looking ahead to what we have to do to stay fresh, vibrant and relevant in today’s competitive environment and make Harbour Center one of — if not the — best places to shop in the Annapolis area,” I’m told by Mark A. Kufka, who manages retail leasing in this region for Lerner Enterprises, the parent company of Annapolis Harbour Center.

Making my peace is easier with that prospect. And easier because Towne Centre at Parole fills a hole in the greater Annapolis commonwealth. The demise and long dereliction of the old Parole Center — at a gateway to Annapolis — diminished our capital city’s standing. The Greenberg Gibbons Towne Centre is a better use of that space than plans that preceded it. Quibbles aside, it’s diverse, friendly to its Parole neighborhood, attractive and walkable. It’s also there.

So I’m making my peace. I’ve started shopping there, drawn by places that haven’t been convenient before. I’ve eaten at two new restaurants, booked a third and peaked at two very fancy one-of-a-kind restaurants — Real Seafood Company and The Chop House — about to be opened by Mike Gibbons, brother of Greenberg-Gibbons partner Brian Gibbons.

And I’ve made my first visits to two of the Harbour Center émigrés. Eastern Mountain Sports — now tripled to 13,500 square feet — is full of toys and gear to make you more comfortable using them. Whole Foods, doubled to 56,000 square feet, promises so much good to eat that my first impression overcomes my distaste for great big grocery stores.

I’ve already gotten so comfortable at Towne Centre that I can give directions — and the influx of confused newcomers means many are asked.

What do you think? I’m listening at editor@bayweekly.com.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher