Mall wars in Parole

July 07, 1992

Woodward & Lothrop hasn't yet mounted a cannon on the roof of its Parole Plaza store and pointed it toward the Annapolis Mall. But one gets the feeling that the retailer will fire away, if that's what it takes to bully the mall out of its expansion plans.

Already the tiff between Woodies and mall-manager CenterMark Properties has escalated into a nasty battle. In recent weeks, Woodies has appealed permits and development plans, threatened lawsuits and blasted CenterMark in a full-page newspaper ad -- all in the name of protecting the environment and public trust. As a good neighbor, Woodies claims it has an obligation to fight the expansion, which it says will mean excessive traffic and pollution and ruin wetlands.

It would be nice to believe that Woodies is going to all this trouble simply because it cares so deeply about the community. But the people who live in Parole, especially environmentalists dedicated to saving the two streams that run through this congested suburb, are unimpressed. Any major development, like the 260,000-square-foot mall expansion, poses serious dangers to these waterways. Woodies is right about that. But in the nearly 30 years Woodies has been in business in Parole, this is the first time the store has expressed concern for the environment -- and far from the first time that the area has faced an environmental crisis.

A year ago, Woodies planned to move to the expanded Annapolis Mall. Now, for reasons no one seems able to agree upon, Woodies is out and Nordstrom's, the upscale Seattle-based retailer, is in. Go ahead and take Woodies at its word that its protests are not engineered to block Nordstrom's arrival, that this is not a feud between two stores.

This is a feud between a store and a mall, both trying to protect their own interests. At best, the publicity generated will heighten public awareness about the impact of development. At worst, it will obscure the efforts of real environmentalists who treat the earth's problems as more than convenient weapons in a retailing war.

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