Shopping: Main Street to malls to Main Street

This Just In. . .

November 10, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

TWO WEEKS ago in this space, a Baltimore woman told the story of being confronted by a angry, transplanted New Yorker who condemned life here in the Land of Pleasant Living on the grounds of poor shopping aesthetics. Remember that in-your-face guy who went into a tirade about the prevalance of malls? He said he missed the "village green" settings of the New York City suburbs, and, lacking such here, he could find nothing charming about the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The guy was obnoxious, but his observation was nonetheless interesting.

Town centers -- actual "villages" with shopping districts -- are not something we can boast about in the Baltimore region. The possible exceptions are Columbia and Annapolis and, closer to Baltimore, Ellicott City and downtown Catonsville. We have only a few incorporated towns in central Maryland, and you can count on your fingers the number of them that still have thriving main streets.

Far more prevalent is the "miracle mile" arrangement of suburban commercial development -- Route 40, Liberty Road, York Road, Ritchie Highway, Reisterstown Road. (Good reading on this subject: "Main Street To Miracle Mile," by Chester H. Liebs, 1995, Johns Hopkins University Press.) After the big department stores left Howard Street what seems like a lifetime ago, where did they go? To the malls. So that's what we have primarily -- miracle miles and malls. That's the way the schemers -- let's not flatter them by calling them "planners" -- figured it out years ago.

So what the obnoxious guy from New York might have been reacting to was the absence of convenient shopping districts connected to village-style development. If you live in the Baltimore 'burbs, as the guy from New York does, you can't really walk to shop. You have to drive. You live with it.

In that regard, it's interesting to note that Nottingham Properties in the midst of building a "main street" at White Marsh Mall, an effort to give that massive parking lot of a development a communal spirit and "downtown" feel. They're putting restaurants, stores and a movie theater along a single street designed to resemble a Maryland village. It's a main street theme park. In hunching that such a thing is wanted, the developers are assuming that suburbanites miss something they never really had.

Parenting tour de force

Stanley E. Brown, director of the Edmondson-Westside High School Band, is hot to tell somebody about the band MVP -- that's Most Valuable Parent -- so it might as well be we. Who can blame Brown for his enthusiasm? Volunteers like Cherby Worthington are precious to bands and other organizations that operate with tight budgets and virtually no support staff.

Worthington has three children at Edmondson-Westside. She serves as treasurer of the band boosters. With her own money, she's purchased eight musical instruments for students who couldn't afford them. But wait, there's more.

A couple of weeks ago, Worthington delivered a parent-volunteer tour de force.

"Our homecoming was Friday, Oct. 17," says Brown. "On Tuesday, Oct. 14, the seamstress who had been paid weeks earlier to make our dancers' uniforms returned the money, saying she did not make nor would she make the uniforms. I asked parents to help, but many did not sew. Two days prior to homecoming, Mrs. Worthington stayed up nights making the uniforms so that the students would not be disappointed. This might not seem like much, but during this same week, she also made eight other skirts, decorated 15 hats, hemmed 24 pairs of pants and made eight flags for our flag girls. She made the banner for our banner girls, too."

E9 She makes the rest of us look like bake-sale rookies.

Staying in tune

High fives, back slaps and the mother of all lasagnas to Steve Rouse, Linda Sherman, Tom Davis and their supporting cast (Rouse & Co., WQSR-FM, 105.7) on reaching their 3,000th show. That's a lot of laughs, a lot of good miles for a lot of listeners on a lot of otherwise dreary and stressful morning commutes. Encore! ... Friendly rival morning guys Jo Jo and Kenny of WMIX-FM, 106.5, will celebrate their third year on the air this week, topping it off with a big celebration at the Myerhoff a week from tonight. ... Still got a place deep in my heart (and a programmed spot on my car radio) for WRNR-FM, 103.1. Some days, some hours, there's no better music selection on radio. ... Speaking of that, longtime listeners of WBJC-FM, Baltimore's last classical music station, have been complaining about programming. They sneer at 'BJC as nothing more than a Top 40 classical station, its weekday airwaves filled with too many old warhorses, too much that's too familiar. I agree, to a point. I'm not lobbying for Berg or HTC Schoenberg, mind you -- a little bit of those guys goes a long way -- but if I hear one more minute of Strauss this month, I'm going to waltz right over to the medicine cabinet for an extra-strength headache remedy.

Birds fans mad as wet hens

A TJI reader in Bel Air, Cindy Delomonico, wants to know if we here at The Sun are aware just how angry Orioles fans are about losing Davey Johnson. "I've heard from many, many people that fans are planning a boycott on Opening Day next spring to show [Peter] Angelos how mad they are. You heard about this?" No, but it's early yet. ... Stan The Fan thinks the best thing that ever happened to the Baltimore Ravens was Peter Angelos. He might have something there.

Pub Date: 11/10/97

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