Salisbury Mall site has new owner, redevelopment plans

A development of single-family homes, apartments and commercial space is planned for the old Salisbury Mall property – land that Mayor Jake Day described as being a “wasteland” for more than a decade.

“This is a site that has brought us no value over the years,” he said. “It’s an empty, empty, barren piece of property.”

The 80-acre property on the city’s East Side was sold recently to Crossroads Salisbury LLC, a Bethesda, Md.-based developer, said real estate broker John Hanenfeld.

Hanenfeld said he was not at liberty to disclose the sale price for the property.

Groundbreaking is expected to take place in early 2020 for the section of the land closest to Civic Avenue that will have 150 single-family houses built on it, he said. The apartments and retail space will be built closer to Beaglin Park Drive, but probably not until 2022.

“Their goal is to make it a liveable, walkable, safe community,” Hanenfeld said.

The developers have hired Salisbury architect Keith Fisher, who is also involved with the Marina Landing development at the Salisbury Marina.

The houses will be built along a two-lane boulevard with traffic circles, Fisher said. The mixed use area of the development will have apartments on upper floors above commercial spaces on the ground level.

The developers 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, Fisher said.

The location is ideal because of its proximity to the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, Salisbury City Park, Salisbury Zoo, Twilley Center and the new Pure Fitness health club that opened last December in the former Labinal building on Glen Avenue, he said. And it is next door to Wicomico County Stadium which hosts the annual Red, White and Boom fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

It also will fill a hole in the area that includes several other residential neighborhoods.

“It’s plugging in what I call the missing link,” Fisher said.

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 awhile, but it eventually closed for good in 2004, a year after it was sold to developers. The building was finally demolished in 2007.

The buyers of the site, Salisbury Mall Associates, had plans to develop it, but local opposition to the high density mixed-use project and other factors caused delays, Hanenfeld said. Then the real estate market collapsed in 2008, killing the plans.

Fisher said the new development won’t resemble what was once proposed for the site. “We are nowhere near the previous density,” he said.

Day said the recent sale of the property followed two years of negotiations with the previous owners. Now the new development will contribute to the local economy and boost the city’s tax base.

“I’m excited to see this brought back to life,” he said.

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