PAROLE PLAZA
West Street and Riva Road
Anne Arundel, County, Maryland

Maryland's first capital city shopping mall was developed by Camden County, New Jersey's Cy Freedman and constructed on a 33 acre plot situated 2.5 miles west of the Maryland State House. Construction commenced on the single-level PAROLE PLAZA in 1961.

The mall site, in unincorporated Anne Arundel County, was part of an area known as Parole. It had been named after Camp Parole, a Civil War-era outpost. This is where Union soldiers were interned while awaiting an exchange with Confederate soldiers that took place after hostilities ceased.

The land parcel had also been used as the Parole Hunt Club, a half-mile horse racing track, that was in operation between 1940 and 1957. As a matter of fact, the first recorded horse race in Maryland had taken place at the Parole parcel, in May 1743.

Originally encompassing 264,000 leasable square feet, the open-air PAROLE PLAZA began to open for business in the spring of 1962. Its first operational store was a 1-level (73,000 square foot) Sears, which included a freestanding Sears Auto Center. These were dedicated May 16, 1962. 

A 1-level (81,000 square foot) New York City-based Britts followed, on October 3, 1962. Britts, a division of J.J. Newberry 5 & 10s, was the second store opened in the newly-created department store chain. The PAROLE PLAZA location had fifty-four departments and included a William Tally House Restaurant.

Britts grand opening was accompanied by the dedications of Sherwin Williams Paints and a freestanding Annapolis Federal Bank. By 1963, the full roster of twenty-six stores and services was in operation. These included Shoe Town, Read's Drug, Buster Brown Shoes, Rick's TV & Electronics, Kinney Shoes, the Lynn Gift Shop and a Food Fair supermarket.

The first -and only- expansion of the center was done by DC-based Woodward & Lothrop, who opened a 1-level (90,000 square foot) store at PAROLE PLAZA September 30, 1964. The building was expanded with a second level in 1974, then encompassing 136,000 square feet. The mall now housed approximately 400,000 leasable square feet.

By the late 1970s, inline stores at PAROLE PLAZA included Docktor Pet Center, Hickory Farms of Ohio and a Pantry Pride Supermarket (which had assumed the Food Fair space). Britts was shuttered in January 1979, with Kmart leasing the space.

For its first 18 years, PAROLE PLAZA had no mall-type retail rivals. This changed with the completion of ANNAPOLIS MALL, in 1980. This complex, a mere .3 of a mile northwest of PAROLE PLAZA, originated from a circa-1970 Montgomery Ward. ANNAPOLIS MALL was expanded in 1983, 1994, 1998 and 2007.

The center came under full Westfield (of Sydney, Australia) ownership in 1997 and was renamed WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS in 1998. This was shortened to WESTFIELD ANNAPOLIS in 2005. Following its 2007 expansion, it was Maryland's largest shopping mall.

By the mid-1980s, ANNAPOLIS MALL had drained the life out of the older and smaller PAROLE PLAZA. It gradually took on a dilapidated appearance, as more and more stores closed their doors and were not replaced. The first major defection involved Kmart, who pulled their proverbial plug in May 1995. This was followed by the closing of Magruder's supermarket (in the Food Fair / Pantry Pride space) and Woodward & Lothrop, which went dark November 10, 1995.

When Sears relocated into a vacant Montgomery Ward at WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS, on March 21, 2002, the writing was on the wall for PAROLE PLAZA. Although a redevelopment plan had been on the drawing board since 1991, no progress had been made. The open-air mall continued to deteriorate while county officials were embroiled in disagreements over a redevelopment plan.

A proposal for a new Wal-Mart at a PAROLE CENTRE was bitterly opposed for being too pedestrian-unfriendly. Developers came and went. The tide turned when Owings Mills, Maryland's Greenberg Commercial Group bought the "abandoned dirty husk" in May 2004, in a joint venture with Annapolis-based Petrie Ross Ventures. They announced plans for a 400 million dollar lifestyle-type, mixed-use complex.

ANNAPOLIS TOWNE CENTRE AT PAROLE would be situated on three retail levels and house 674,000 square feet of stores and services, 91,700 square feet of office space, a one hundred and fifty-unit luxury condominium complex and four parking garages. Demolition of PAROLE PLAZA got underway in July 2005.

The groundbreaking for the new lifestyle center took place in December 2005. The first group of tenants opened October 12, 2008. These included a 1-level (140,000 square foot) Target and Coldwater Creek, Lucy Activewear, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Great Gatherings.

An official grand opening was held May 6, 2009. The festivities at the "Fun Around Towne" celebration included a free outdoor concert, retailer demonstrations, shopping and restaurant specials and prize giveaways.

By this time, the tenant list included a (42,500 square foot) Bed, Bath & Beyond, (75,000 square foot) Whole Foods Market and LA Fitness, Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, J. Jill, Sur La Table, Gordon Biersch and Metro Silver Diner.

Sources:

Articles on Wikipedia
www.bizjournals.com
http://gba-architects.com (Gant-Brunnett Architects)
www.ggcommercial.com (Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Group)
www.sturbridgehomes.com
www.hometownannapolis.com
http:www.departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com
The Baltimore Sun
The Washington Post