Newspaper building to make way for major health complex

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News that the old Daily Times building on Carroll Street could be demolished, and a medical center built there, was met with mixed emotions by long-time former editor Mel Toadvine.

“I know it’s progress, but it’s a shame,” he said from his home in Florida, where he’s semi-retired.

“I hate to see it go because when I first went there it was still pretty new. It was built around 1957 and I went there in 1962,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Salisbury City Council approved Mayor Jim Ireton’s intent to apply for Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund money to raze the building, formerly owned by Gannett Co. The property was sold to PRMC in 2008 for $1.8 million.

The proposal is to build a five-story Eastern Shore Medical Center there, with schools of pharmacy and nursing. There has also been talk about a medical school there.

“If this grant application is funded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, this allied health mixed-use facility is envisioned to offer space for a Salisbury University Nursing Program, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Pharmacy Program and include street-level retail and commercial space for businesses in downtown Salisbury,” Terence Arrington, assistant city administrator, said.

The city is applying for a $565,000 Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development grant, money available to municipalities and non-profit community development organizations in Sustainable Communities and Priority Funding Areas in Maryland.

Ron Morgan, president of Becker Morgan Group in Salisbury designing the new structure, called the plan a “great opportunity” for a bridge between the hospital and a medical training center.

The building, at 115 East Carroll Street, “has outlived its timeliness and usefulness,” Morgan said, although in its day, it was modern, with broad open spaces. It fit nicely into the topography of the site, with the newsroom and offices on the upper level and printing press and circulation on the lower level, he said.

His company’s renderings show a five-story modern facility on the property, and possibly extending behind it where a gastroenterologist’s office is now. The preliminary design concept shows third and fourth floors earmarked for the school of pharmacy, and the fifth floor home to a school of nursing. Parking and retail shops would be on the first two levels.

Both the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and PRMC  sent letters of support to the city for pursuing the grant.

“The correspondence also expressed support, in general terms, of efforts to develop the property, which could ultimately house programs to advance health sciences on the Eastern Shore,” according to Bill Robinson, who handles public relations for UMES.

Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s Roger Follebout, director of community relations, said PRMC officials are “both supportive and involved in future efforts to make Salisbury’s downtown a vibrant area.”

But, he said, “While we support the mayor’s pursuit of grant funds, the conclusion that this project has our final approval would be premature.”

The state has set aside $7.5 million for local jurisdictions to tear down vacant buildings for the sake of redevelopment. The Carroll Street building is unoccupied, and currently being used for storage.

Meantime, some who worked in the Daily Times building, including Toadvine, editor for 20 years, remember the old days of smoke-filled newsrooms, ringing telephones and clack of typewriters as reporters rushed to meet deadlines.

“I have a lot of good memories there,” Toadvine said, “a lot of sentimental memories. But I guess progress has to prevail.”

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