Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bullfrogs and White Elephants

**An interesting article from April 2000 (thanks, but no thanks to the fruit-loop loving gossip who fancies himself a blogger. in Salisbury. HA!)

Our Very Own White Elephant
By Mike Dunn
Metropolitan Magazine
April 2000

In homage to the recent quiz show mania sweeping America, I ask the following bizarre question: What do a bullfrog and a white elephant have in common?

Come again? A bullfrog – the same loud croaker considered a culinary delight by some – and a white elephant, the metaphorical pachyderm used to describe an eyesore, share some commonality? They do indeed, at least here in Salisbury.

Allow me to explain. I’ll start by telling you a bit about Salisbury’s white elephant. Some clues:
1. It really is white
2. You can’t miss it – it’s in the heart of town
3. There was a time when this city couldn’t live without it.

Know it now? Sure you do. Like Regis’ $100 question, this is an easy one. Our white elephant is the Old Salisbury Mall.
Now, unknown to all but a few of us, is the following tidbit. Before the mall was built, that Civic Avenue land one which it sits was just a field. In the middle of that field stood some trees. In the center of those trees was a pond. And in that pond, lived some bullfrogs.

I know this because as a Wyman Drive kid my father used to take me, my siblings, and any friends whose parents said it was ok, over to that pond. And once there, we’d watch in amazement as my dad, crude bullfrog hunting stick in hand, would spear those large frogs right out of the water. (Now I’m not a hunter, never have been. And I haven’t had frog’s legs in thirty years. But I remember this – those little legs tasted good!)

Thos amphibians said goodbye to us all in the late 60’s when earthmovers arrived at this home to clear a space for Salisbury’s first major step into modern suburbia – our very own indoor shopping mecca, the aforementioned mall.

I always loved that mall. Why wouldn’t I? It made for a great playground. Bad news or the bullfrogs was great news for my friends and me. The hills those earthmovers created made for some of the best tunnels and caves imaginable, and we played in them for what seemed like years.

And when the mall finally opened its doors in 1968, we simply took our fun and games to the inside. The mall, a great place to shop for most, was a great place to frolic for us. Two of our favorite activities were hide and seek (for some reason the Sears lingerie department was a popular hiding spot), and shopping cart races (for which we were once thrown out of the mall for thirty days).

The mall, our mall, was a success. It was thriving at it’s central Salisbury location. Traffic nightmares that had been predicted never surfaced, as vehicles seemed to flow relatively smoothly onto and out of Civic or Glen Avenues. And Rt. 50 and Beaglin Park Drive made the mall very accessible to in and out-of-towners.

The mall was such a big hit that in the mid 70’s it was expanded, nearly doubling its capacity. Two more anchor stores were added, and some of the local retailers, so confident of the mall’s future, anted up and built larger, bigger stores. This bigger mall thrived too, at least for another decade, or so. At least, that is, until the newer, more modern, more regional Centre at Salisbury came along in 1990. From that date forward, it’s been all downhill for my old stomping grounds.

So what now? What to do with an old mall shopping center that sits in a high visibility area, just wasting away? I don’t have the answer to that question. I don’t know who does. But it seems to me that something has to be done.

I know there is a plan for the old mall. We’ve all read about them in the paper, seem them on TV. There’s a new residential development set to be built. It’s going up in the part of the old field that still remains. And allegedly the company building that new tract is also close to finding some additional anchor stores to help breathe new life into those old white bricks. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime what we’re stuck with is this; a dilapidated building with weed-infested parking lot. It’s ugly, plain and simple. And yet there it sits, an eyesore of the highest magnitude. Our very own white elephant. Somewhat ironic isn’t it that our worst looking attraction sits so close to perhaps our two nicest ones – the zoo and the civic center? You just know all of our out of town visitors must be impressed.

If it were up to me, I’d start all over again. I’d tear my old friend the mall down brick by brick. Then I’d bulldoze the parking lot and begin a renaissance. With what? How about a new strip center, say like The Festival in Annapolis? Or let’s say a new, modern movie multiplex? Or an outlet center? Anything. The land was once a vital tax base for this town. I’m convinced it can be again, if only someone would make it a priority.

Yes, I know. These are all expensive alternatives – and destroying the old mall is cost prohibitive. But I think that doing nothing is just as costly. It’s just a dream perhaps, but one day I hope our white elephant goes the way of the bullfrogs that lived there before it – and just disappears.


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