Parole sign coming down, but letters to rise again

Developer of a project at site is to discuss plans today

December 16, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

The towering "Parole" sign - a multicolored relic that has long recalled the strip shopping centers of the 1960s - is coming down. But it's not headed for the scrap heap.

Crews used a crane this week to begin removing the sign's letters, one by one, from the five-story-tall sign that marked the Parole Plaza shopping center for more than a generation.

The move wasn't unexpected. The shuttered shopping center has been razed, and a developer is preparing to start work on a $400 million mixed-use project there.

Still, the dismantling of the landmark had to evoke nostalgia for those driving by the 35-acre site near West Street and Solomons Island Road, or Route 2.

But representatives of the developer, Greenberg Commercial Corp., stressed that the sign has not been forgotten.

At a groundbreaking ceremony today for the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, Brian J. Gibbons, president and chief executive of Greenberg, is expected to elaborate on plans to preserve the sign and display its 6-foot-tall letters within the Towne Center.

"We've had so many questions about what was going to happen to the sign," Gibbons said in a statement. "We see it as a true piece of local history that should be preserved."

Greenberg also will announce six donations to local community groups - one for each letter of the "Parole" sign - totaling $150,000. And Gibbons will reveal a more precise construction timetable for what the company says will be a pedestrian-friendly town center, a spokeswoman said.

The land between Forest Drive and West Street has stood barren for months as Greenberg has waited for county approvals for the 2.1-million- square-foot enclave, with residential, office and commercial space.

Since Greenberg purchased the land and proposed a development in spring 2004, the size of the project has increased by 166,000 square feet, despite the elimination of at least two proposed buildings.

Greenberg also has moved more than 90,000 square feet of planned office space to the north side of the property and added 215 condominium units - bringing the total number of planned units to 900.

The company received final development approval from the county for the town center in recent weeks and is getting the necessary permits, county officials said.

At today's event, Greenberg executives will unveil a 6-foot- by-8-foot model of the project, giving the public the most detailed perspective of the planned development.

Greenberg has signed up Target and organic supermarket Whole Foods as the two anchor tenants, and P.F. Chang's China Bistro as one of its restaurants.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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