Parole, the next edge city? Annapolis' outskirts will look more like a town if plaza is redeveloped.

January 24, 1996

FIRST CAME THE suburbanization of America after World War II. The logical next step was the malling of America as growing legions of suburbanites no longer wanted to shop in aging downtowns. The third wave was "edge cities," suburbs that evolve into virtual cities themselves. Edge cities are defined as having at least 14,000 jobs, at least 5 million square feet of leasable office space, lots of white-collar workers, retail and entertainment to service them and no formal, political government.

In this region, Towson, Hunt Valley, Columbia, Bethesda, Rockville and Tysons Corner are among a dozen areas that meet the "edge city" definition. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport environs may eventually develop into an edge city.

So may Parole, just outside Annapolis, if plans proceed to transform its 33-year-old plaza shopping center into a "village" of modern, mixed-used buildings. The $100 million redevelopment project would create new department stores, movie theaters, restaurants and entertainment amenities that might include an ice skating rink.

This conceptual plan will need a multitude of government approvals. But it comes none too soon for the aging shopping center which is to be demolished anyway because so many key tenants have fled. If the redevelopment plan is approved for the 34-acre Parole Plaza site, the area would take a major step toward transformation into a thriving business district.

Total floor area for the replacement center would be just under 1 million square feet, with more than two-thirds devoted to retail. Meanwhile, a new street grid would give the site a more urban feel.

"We are creating the downtown of the suburbs," enthused developer Carl Freedman. "You should be able to come here and do everything -- shopping, entertainment, and someday live here, someday work here."

The redevelopment plan comes at a time when the hodge-podge image of the Parole area is about to get a lift. The new headquarters for Constellation Energy Corp., the combined entity from the merger of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co., is likely to be built there. A headquarters such as that would give an edge to this budding edge city.

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