PRMC slowly buying up surrounding properties

Peninsula Regional Medical Center officials are gradually buying up properties that surround their campus with the goal of establishing a long-term footprint and improving security.

The local health care giant has purchased at least eight business properties that front Route 13, extending south from its main hub.

Officials have also purchased several houses along streets that extend from Waverly Drive to South Salisbury Boulevard, including Mitchell, Newton and Center streets.

More purchases are expected, as officials negotiate with owners who are suddenly excited that the hospital might want to make an offer.

Among the longtime business sites that have been acquired are the old Robinson’s Clock Shop, Hitch Insurance, a sun porch contractor, retailer Mr. Curley’s and the Whiting-Turner office building.

PRMC spokesman Roger Follebout said the purchases will allow the medical center to increase parking, add greenspace and implement security measures that will curtail transient foot traffic.

“We will be able to better protect and patrol the perimeter,” he said. “Site security and safety are primary issues.”

Bookstore’s future?

One property that hasn’t yet been purchased — but is obviously on the hospital’s real estate radar — is 616 South Salisbury Blvd., the location of Salisbury News Agency.

That business, which has been in existence since at least 1954, transitioned into an outlet for adult-oriented materials in June 1972.

Law enforcement officials first raided the business in February 1973, and again in 1989 and 1991. It was closed for six months in 1989-91 when it lost its city business license.

In 1977, the county sued the business for showing uncensored movies, but the earlier disbandment of the Maryland Censorship Board was ruled a means to allow the business to operate.

A June 1991 raid led to the store manager’s arrest on various criminal charges after officers found video booths inside the business were the scene of sex acts. About $30,000 in store inventory was seized and the property was ruled to be “a bawdy house.”

The shopping center was the scene of constant public picketing in the 1980s, with groups including the American Family Association of Delmarva and the Delmarva Citizens For Decency dispatching demonstrators to raise awareness and shame customers.

The city and county have acknowledged they can’t block or regulate the material sold there, but can take action if and when lewd conduct occurs.

In recent years, the city has created a special zoning status for adult stores, which would see any new business of that nature located away from such commercially visible locations.  

Even after more than 40 years, the shopping center and business is still owned by RoBo Inc./S&W Joint Ventures of Owings Mills, Md. The Genesis Tire Center occupies the north unit.

Though the shopping center appears to be one building, it is actually two — the hospital purchased the south portion that contains the barbershop and furniture store. No decision has been made about those two tenants.

PRMC officials are considering fencing similar to that recently installed along Route 13 at Salisbury University. That wall and landscaping project was designed to improve campus security, establish a boundary and redirect pedestrians.

Boulevard renovations

South Salisbury Boulevard, from the hospital extending south to North Boulevard across from Acme Grocery Store, is about to undergo a $7.15 million storm drainage and renovation project. With the hospital owning most of the property on the west side of the roadway, plans could be altered to eliminate some of the boulevard’s locally famous “S-Curve.”

The project was expected to begin this year, but was delayed for a redesign, according to the State Highway Administration’s Lower Shore construction projects listing. The entire effort will be painfully long for motorists — it has a projected end date of 2022.

Construction could begin this month and will ultimately affect traffic flow around the medical center.

In addition to the drainage system, state contractors will also build new sidewalks.

The project will be conducted in three different phases, mostly at night, in three different sections:

  • Phase 1: South Boulevard to Newton Street (from about Rita’s to the Wawa).
  • Phase 2: Newton Street to Vine Street (touching the southern campus of PRMC/at Exxon Station).
  • Phase 3: Vine Street to Calvert Street (across the entire front of PRMC to approximately the Royal Farms store north).

At all phases of the project, no detours of Route 13 are expected, but workers will at times have traffic restricted to a single lane. Some crossover street intersections will be closed from time to time.

Benefit to community

John McClellan of SVN — Miller Commercial Realtors, who tracks such transactions, said the community is lucky to see PRMC step up and help repair a long-held image problem.

“The fact that such an institution cares about our StreetScape projects and center-city image is a blessing,” he said. “It shows they care.”

McClellan said the appearance of the retail shopping centers west of Route 13 in the area around the S-Curve have always been a detriment to Salisbury’s commerce and reputation.

“These are buildings in the middle of our town and they have always looked seedy,” he said.

A former Chairman of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce,McClellan made the point that the hospital’s improvements — when combined with redevelopment plans extending from the Tony Tank Pond Bridge all the way north to Route 50 — will give Salisbury a new image. “It’s going to be a great look,” he said.  

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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