Council wants more info on old mall site redevelopment

Crossroads Salisbury LLC, a Bethesda, Md.-based developer, is interested in using tax increment financing to help pay to redevelop the old Salisbury Mall site, but City Council members said they need to know more before agreeing.

Salisbury City Council members agreed to further explore a financing plan for the former Salisbury Mall property, which is slated for single-family houses, apartments and commercial space on the 80-acre site that has been vacant for more than a decade.

The owner, Crossroads Salisbury LLC, a Bethesda, Md.-based developer, is interested in using tax increment financing – or TIF – to help pay for the project, and council members received a lesson on how it would work during a Monday night work session.

Afterward, some council members said they still want more information even as they proceed with hammering out an agreement.

“I wouldn’t say my comfort level is high,” said Councilwoman Angela Blake.

TIF agreements mean that cities and counties use revenue bond proceeds to fund infrastructure improvements at the development, such as streets, stormwater systems and street lighting.

Once development begins, the assessed value of the land increases, which means more property tax income to Salisbury. The base tax amount would still go into the city’s general fund, but any new tax revenue would go into a special fund to pay debt service on the bond, Emily Metzler, senior vice president of MUNICAP Inc., told council members.

Metzler said most jurisdictions also create special tax districts in combination with TIFs as a backup. In case the property tax revenue isn’t enough, the city could levy an extra tax to pay the bonds.

The city used a TIF for a previous redevelopment plan for the mall property in 2007, but the project faced opposition due to the high-density mixed-use plan and other factors that caused delays. Then the real estate market collapsed in 2008, killing the plans.

Salisbury also used a TIF to pay for the Northeast Collector road.

In other parts of Maryland, TIF projects include Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County, National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Downtown Columbia in Howard County and Port Covington in Baltimore City.

Crossroads Salisbury bought the former Salisbury Mall property for $4.45 million in July 2019, according to Maryland property records.

The site is adjacent to the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, the Twilley Center and the Pure Fitness health club in the former Labinal building on Glen Avenue.

The land closest to Civic Avenue is expected to be developed first with 150 single-family houses. The apartments and retail space will be built closer to Beaglin Park Drive.

The developers have said they are hoping to add a mix of businesses, including a grocery store and restaurant, that will serve the new development as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

The Salisbury Mall opened in 1968, and once had Sears, Hutzler’s and Hecht Co. as anchor stores. It flourished for years as the area’s only indoor shopping mall.

But Sears, Hecht’s and other stores left when the Centre at Salisbury opened on the north end of town in 1990, and the old mall went into decline. The following year, the stabbing death of a Salisbury University freshman in the mall’s restroom helped further its downward trend.

A portion of the mall continued to operate for a while, but it eventually closed for good in 2004, a year after it was sold to Salisbury Mall Associates. The building was demolished in 2007.

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