PAROLE PLAZA
Forest Drive 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 an unincorporated section of Anne Arundel County, was part of an area known as Parole. It had been named after Camp Parole, a Civil War-era outpost. Union soldiers had been interned there while awaiting a post-war exchange with Confederate soldiers.

The land parcel had also been used as the Parole Hunt Club, a half-mile horse racing track. This facility 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 retail 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 on 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, the Yankee Peddler and a Pantry Pride supermarket (which had assumed the Food Fair space in the late 1960s). Britts was shuttered in January 1979, with Kmart leasing its space.

For its first 18 years, PAROLE PLAZA had no true rivals. Then came ANNAPOLIS MALL {.3 of a mile northwest}. This complex, dedicated in 1980, was expanded in 1983, 1994, 1998 and 2007. It came under full ownership of Australia's Westfield company in 1997 and was renamed WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS in November 1998. This was shortened to WESTFIELD ANNAPOLIS in June 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. The center gradually took on a dilapidated appearance, as more and more stores closed their doors and were not replaced.

The first major defection was done by Kmart, who pulled their proverbial plug in May 1995. This store closing was followed by the demise of Magruder's supermarket (who had leased the Pantry Pride space after that store was shuttered, on August 15, 1981). Woodward & Lothrop went dark on November 10, 1995.

Sears relocated into a vacant Montgomery Ward, at WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN ANNAPOLIS, on March 21, 2002. By now, 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 Wal-Mart, at a new PAROLE CENTRE complex, was bitterly opposed for being too pedestrian-unfriendly. Developers came and went. The tide finally turned in May 2004. Owings Mills, Maryland's Greenberg Commercial Group bought the "abandoned dirty husk" 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 3 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 of the same year. The first group of tenants opened October 12, 2008. These included a 1-level (140,000 square foot) Target and inline stores such as 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, shopping and restaurant specials and prize giveaways.

The ANNAPOLIS TOWNE CENTRE (AT PAROLE) tenant list now included a (42,500 square foot) Bed, Bath & Beyond and (75,000 square foot) Whole Foods Market. Other new stores and services were LA Fitness, Sur La Table, Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, J. Jill, Gordon Biersch and Metro Silver Diner.

Sources:

The Capital (Annapolis, Maryland)
The Baltimore Sun
The Washington Post
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