City accepts grant to demolish old Daily Times building

A massive health complex has been proposed for 115 East Carroll St., site of the old Daily Times building.

A massive health complex has been proposed for 115 East Carroll St., site of the old Daily Times building.

Celebrating a $250,000 state grant to pay for demolition of the former Daily Times building prompted the mayor to reminisce about it as a vibrant community gathering place.

“There are memories here. There is so much history here,” Mayor Jim Ireton said at a news conference Monday, at the main entrance of the 115 East Carroll St. structure.

“It was a place like home, mostly the Newsroom behind us here,” he said, recalling longtime editor Mel Toadvine and writers including the late John Bozman.

Sometimes in life, Ireton said, it’s necessary to tear down in order to build something new, and that’s what the grant, from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, is for.

Awarded through the Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund, it’s part of $7.5 million in grants for 27 projects in 12 Maryland counties and Baltimore City. The money was presented to the PRMC president.

Terence Arrington, assistant city administrator, who wrote the grant, praised the demolition as the beginning of further downtown revitalization. Jake Day, president of the City Council, said the project is “without politics and timeless.”

Ireton called Arrington’s work to achieve the grant “herculean.” He said city officials have talked  to those at PRMC, as well as Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, about erecting a medical school.

A few months ago, there was talk about putting a five-story Eastern Shore Medical Center there.

Arrington, at the time, said if the grant application was funded, “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.”

But Roger Follebout, who handles public relations for PRMC, said the final decision is not yet certain. The building was sold to PRMC by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2008 for $1.8 million.

Hospital officials are “both supportive and involved in future efforts to make Salisbury’s downtown a vibrant area,” Follebout said.

“We look forward to moving the project forward and ultimately deciding the best use of that property for all involved,”  he said.

He called the architect’s rendering of the five-story construction, on display at the press conference Monday, “a placeholder for what the new building could look like.”

“There are a lot of things in the air. We’ve heard discussion about retail on the lower floor and, upstairs, medical offices and maybe classrooms. We will discuss how to use it and how to tie into the downtown,” he said.

Ireton  told Peggy Naleppa, president and CEO of PRMC, and William McCain, chairman of the  board of trustees, who both attended the press conference, collaboration between the city and hospital is an example of a smooth working relationship.

He said bids will be accepted within the next few months for demolition and new construction.

He warned, though, that since  the grant was applied for, the political landscape has changed.

“We have many new faces at the state and local level that I believe are ready to stand up and make this project a reality,” Ireton said.

“I believe that neither Governor-elect (Larry) Hogan, Delegate-elect (Mary Beth) Carozza, nor Delegate-elect (Carl) Anderton will walk away from the original vision of this building. When we look at statistics regarding rural health – the lack of primary care physicians, OB-GYNs, skin doctors and pediatricians – and most importantly the shortage of nurses in rural areas, ours and across the nation, I feel this project, close to its original  form, is still possible.

“I will work toward that goal every day from this day forward,” the mayor said.

Contact Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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