Monday, January 29, 2007

From the parking lot

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Recap/Mall Interiors

Northeast entrance, east facing west, Hecht's interior straight ahead, to the right

West entrance, Sears interior entrance straight ahead, to the right

East Mall entrance corridor

West Mall, center court - west facing east

East Mall, center court

2003 Mall Auction, 2001 Peebles Closing

*The following articles were retrieved from The Daily Times archives on January 23, 2007

Old Mall on Sale
By Daniel Valentine

Daily Times Staff Writer
SALISBURY -- An auction Thursday of the old Salisbury Mall failed to attract a single bidder for the city's former retail center.

Though the auctioneer dropped the asking price five times, no developers were willing to make the minimum $3.5 million starting bid for the 55-acre site.

"Is there any interest at all?" Real Estate Broker John Hanenfeld asked the crowd of about 15 developers from Salisbury and other areas.

The potential bidders stood quietly in the mall space once occupied by a Peebles store as auctioneers reduced their opening bid of $5 million to $3.5 million before calling off the sale.

"I don't think we're going to reduce it any more," Auctioneer Bill Bunch told the crowd after he made repeated calls for a bidder.

Hanenfeld said owners have received several private offers for the former retail center on Civic Avenue that they will review.

"It's going to be sold," Hanenfeld said.

The silence at the auction Thursday is the latest in the ongoing struggle owners have had with the old Salisbury Mall.

Built in 1967, the mall was the retail center of the city for two decades.

But when a new mall was built on north Route 13 and retail businesses flocked to the new commercial corridor in the 1990s, the shopping center fell on hard times. In recent years, several of the old mall's anchor stores moved out.

Today, the mall is mostly empty except for a few shops and a martial arts academy.

Owners have been trying to sell the mall for several years, along with a proposed residential development off Saint Albans Drive.

Real estate sources in Salisbury say owners had originally asked for $9 million for the property. Tax assessments place the mall's value at about $5 million.

Unable to find a dedicated buyer, owners put the site up for auction.

The pending sale had attracted interest from across the country. Several local developers also had eyed the property, hoping to use the site to build a hotel or commercial complex to complement the neighboring Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Several officials in the area say the mall will require extensive work to redevelop, however. Carpets in the building are stained from leaks in the roof and the parking lot outside is cracked.

"It would cost ($3.5 million) just to plow it under," one official said Thursday.

But owners say the mall could become a lucrative investment. Two acres near the site bought for $600,000 in 1997 were sold again this year for $1.1 million.

At the auction, owners also were unable to sell 21 acres already approved for a residential development. The auctioneer lowered the original $3 million starting bid to $1.5 million with no takers.

Bunch, an auctioneer from Pennsylvania, said it is not uncommon for no bids to be made at a real estate auction.

"It isn't like selling antiques or art," he said after the sale. "But it helps get people interested in the property. People come out and see it. That usually leads to a sale."

The auction was attended by several residents who live near the site. Area residents say they are tired of seeing the large building lying dormant.

"It has to be developed," said Virginia Elliott, who watched the non-sale with her husband.
* Reach Daniel Valentine at 410-749-7171, Ext. 320, or

Peebles closes doors in old mall
By Angie Basiouny
Daily Times Staff Writer
SALISBURY - Peebles, the last department store in the old Salisbury Mall, will close within two months because of lackluster sales, company officials announced Thursday.

"Every year, we evaluate our position in each of the markets we serve relative to sales and profitability," said Mike Moorman, chief executive officer of the Virginia-based company. "In our analysis of the Salisbury store, compared to other locations, we felt it best to reallocate those assets to better serve our customers overall."

He did not give further details about the store's financial health.

Peebles Inc. owns more than 120 stores in 15 states. The closing will not affect locations on Delmarva in Seaford, Rehoboth Beach, Onley, Milford, Chestertown, Elkton and Easton.

"We have been very pleased with the performance of these stores," Moorman said. "We are grateful for the customer support we have received in Salisbury and for the outstanding job our associates have done in the store."

The store's 20 full-time and part-time employees were notified Saturday and offered positions at other Peebles in the region, general manager Diana Parsons said.

She did not know how many employees accepted the offer.

"I haven't made up my mind yet, either," said Parsons, who has been with the company for four years. "To be honest with you, the morale right now is pretty good."

The closing brings focus on the future of the deteriorating mall, which has about a dozen remaining tenants, including Food Depot and a branch of Sojourner-Douglass College.

An exodus of stores began in 1990 when Hecht's and Sears relocated to the newly built Centre at Salisbury. Last July, a leaky roof sparked an electrical fire in a vacant wing of the 35-year-old building, and some areas were condemned.

Salisbury Mall Associates - the company that purchased the building and adjacent land for $4 million in 1997 - planned to convert the mall into a retail strip with a courtyard.

Though the project was approved three years ago, no construction has taken place.

Steve Smethurst, attorney for the company, said his clients still intend to renovate.

"The difficulty has been in order to get the financing, you've got to get anchor tenants," he said. "Big banks don't give big money without that."

Smethurst cited the nationwide economic slowdown as reason for the slow progress.

Major retailers from JCPenney to Kmart have announced closings and cutbacks in the last year. Montgomery Ward shut down its 250 stores, including one in The Centre, earlier this year.

Moreover, a retail boom at the town's northern end during the 1990s has saturated the market, Smethurst said.

"Right now, trying to recruit a nationally recognized department store to Salisbury is nigh to impossible," he said. "The Peebles closing is not desirable from the owners' standpoint. It's another loss in revenue."

Plans to build St. Alban's Commons - a $20 million mix of condominiums, apartments and townhouses across from the mall - also hit a snag.

Construction crews broke ground on the project in March, but heavy spring rains stopped the work. Smethurst said they will return to finish laying the infrastructure within 60 days.

The company has been negotiating to sell the land to developers who will build the homes. However, only Hebron Savings Bank has purchased a corner parcel.

"The direction in which the owners would like to go is still the same," Smethurst said of both projects. "They simply have to ride it out until conditions improve."

Peebles will begin a liquidation sale July 4.
*Reach Angie Basiouny at 410-749-7171, Ext. 320, or

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Salisbury Mall, circa 1976

Thanks to Bob at LensArt for tracking down and printing this great shot of the old mall. I am fairly certain that dates to about 1976 as the sidewalk surrounding the East Mall appears to be freshly laid and only Hutzler's and the eastern corridor down to the mall office are built. This would mean the fourth anchor where Food Depot would go came later? In any event, it's a great photo.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Mall Wars Move East

The Mall Wars Move East
Glitzy Centre at Salisbury Opens on Md.'s Eastern Shore
Kara Swisher
Jul 26, 1990

No Gap. No Limited. No Victoria's Secret. It might be difficult to imagine for Washingtonians saturated with cookie-cutter malls, but that was the way it was here in this small city on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

That is, until yesterday, when the Centre at Salisbury had its grand opening. Multicolored balloons and kites festooned the $80 million mall and its more than 1 million square feet of retail space, as thousands of curious shoppers jammed Route 13, filled the huge parking lot and clogged the marbled promenades lined with jazzy-looking new stores.

The oohs-and-ahhs of the crowds were not surprising, considering that the Centre at Salisbury is the first new mall in the area in more than 20 years.

Only a few hours away, consumers in the Washington area have their fill of fashion and food courts. But people on the Delmarva Peninsula have seen little of the change that has exploded across the retail scene in the past few years. That meant many headed to the upscale malls of Washington, Annapolis, Baltimore and Dover, Del.

"This is just wonderful, really nice," said Claramae Hayman of Pocomoke, a half-hour drive away, as she perused the skylit courtyard near Hecht's. "I used to have to drive to Tysons Corner to get these kind of stores-it's a long time coming."
Not long enough, it seems, for the old Salisbury Mall, three miles away from the Centre. Built in 1968 and last renovated in 1974, the mall, with its low ceilings and unremarkable architecture, harks back to another era in retailing. Its merchants view the new center with trepidation-and anger, after the Centre stole away two of the old mall's anchors, Sears and Hecht's, and thus introduced another new retailing concept to the area: the mall war.

The hullabaloo of yesterday's grand opening, featuring Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Miss Maryland, Virginia Cha, was welcome to those who had wondered whether a largely rural and agricultural region could attract such a large-scale development.

"There was always that uncertainty of building out here, since many were not sure the area had the people to support the mall," said Salisbury Mayor Paul Martin. "I always told them the market is here, because there would be none like it on the Eastern Shore."

Mall officials hope to draw from a region of about 270,000 people from Dover south to Cape Charles, Va., though Salisbury's population totals only about 20,000. They also hope to capitalize on tourist-laden Ocean City, which is 30 minutes away.

Annual sales are projected at $425 million and the mall, owned by McLean-based Petrie, Dierman and Partners and Shopco Management Corp., is expected to create 2,000 new jobs here in Wicomico County. There will be three other anchor stores besides Hecht's and Sears: Boscov's, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward.

"All these stores will return Salisbury to the role of being the regional trade center, since it had been losing its dominance over the past few years as the magnet of retailing has lost its power to draw," said Robert Kiley of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Inc., a private, nonprofit research group. "We have been building an economic base to support it, and retail comes where retail wants to go."

That prospect had some people worried about the effect on the Salisbury Mall, which replaced downtown Salisbury as the city's retailing center two decades ago.

"It has been a concern," said Robert Cook of the Greater Salisbury Committee, a private business group. "But many think it's time for things here to improve, and the older Salisbury Mall will only be hurt to the extent that it does not compete and catch up to the levels that the new mall brings to the area."

It plans to. Equitable Real Estate, a division of Equitable Life Assurance, which owns the Salisbury Mall, is set to spend millions on renovation in the next few months.

Peebles and Warehouse Food Store remain as anchors there, and marketing director Mary-Tim Ramsey said the Salisbury Mall is negotiating for new anchor tenants. Many speculate that Wal-Mart could be one of them.

"Business there will suffer for a short time," said John Hess, who has two Hess Apparel stores in the Salisbury Mall, one downtown and one in the new Centre. Hess, whose family has sold clothes in Salisbury since 1928, said he will wait and see how the old mall fares before he considers leaving it.

"It's just like chess," said Vickee Armstrong, marketing director at the Centre at Salisbury. "There is room for both malls and we are not taking shoppers from their mall, but keeping shoppers here in the area. We all can benefit."

Despite the attention given to the Centre, Ramsey is hopeful. "We are not going to fold, we are not going out of business," she said. "The new mall is just forcing us to reestablish where we belong in the community and make us stronger."

Shoppers, long denied stores they believe they deserve, are thrilled at the prospect.

"I am ready to spend in my own community," said Claramae Hayman, clutching a full shopping bag. "Tell that to Macy's and Nordstrom and the rest of them up north."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Body of unidentified homeless man discovered near old mall

By Candice Evans
Staff Writer

SALISBURY — The body of a 52 year-old homeless man was discovered early Monday afternoon behind the old Salisbury mall and Twilley Centre on Civic Avenue.

A caretaker from the Twilley Centre discovered the body among thick shrubbery behind the shopping center, said Lt. Cheryl Rantz of the Salisbury Police Department.

An investigation indicated there was no foul play that contributed to the man’s death. Police speculate the homeless man had just wondered to that area.

“It looked like he died of natural causes,” Rantz said. “There was indication that he had received medical treatment recently.”

Police said the man has been identified. “I wouldn’t say it was a friend but the person had made contact with him before,” she said.
410-749-7171 Ext. 234

See continuing coverage in tomorrow's The Daily Times.