Get Off The Pot: Allow Walmart
It seems like every day now there is something about the Golden Mile in the local newspaper. I drive this stretch of road every day to and from the radio station.
When I was a kid living on the east side of Frederick, my mother would pack us in the car and we would drive to the west end for shopping, restaurants; and, of course, the Frederick Towne Mall. The area has changed dramatically, especially for those who have lived here for a long period of time. Sometimes change is good; sometimes it’s not, but it is inevitable. Everything changes.
But what really is amazing is how so many people – when they focus their attention on the Golden Mile – seem to be looking at it from exactly the wrong perspective. Instead of focusing on the current situation and what we could do to improve things, they instead seem intent on fighting every proposal that is made to revitalize the area. The Golden Mile needs an energy boost, not a nap. It is time to embrace entrepreneurs who come knocking with projects, who actually commit to investing millions of dollars in the area, rather than nitpicking apart their proposals.
The Frederick Towne Mall was once a spectacularly vibrant part of our community. Unless you lived here in the 70’s and 80’s and went to the mall to do your Christmas shopping, you have no idea what I’m talking about. But in those days the mall seemed to take on a life of its own. Festively decorated for the holidays and literally wall-to-wall with shoppers, it was a destination place. It’s hard to imagine that now, but it is true.
And believe it or not, for a number of years the mall actually hosted dances and large social events. For many years the Snowball Dance was the largest annual fundraiser for Frederick Memorial Hospital, complete with Snow Belles and all. The mall would close down for the evening, would be decorated for a party, and people would dance into the night along the concourse and walkways. Again, it’s hard to believe, but true.
Now we have a rotting hulk of a building which – as a city planning commissioner said not too long ago – is an “embarrassment” to the city. That comment hit the nail on the head. It is an embarrassment, and the leaders of the city owe it to the citizens to do everything and anything they can to turn things around.
So, one would think that when Walmart comes in proposing to spend millions of dollars on a large project on the mall property, they would be perceived as a white knight. But, alas, not in the City of Frederick.
The proposal makes one wonder if there’s ever been a Walmart anywhere in the world to approach what the company plans for the Frederick Towne Mall property. Open space, green areas, pedestrian friendly walkways, and even a space set aside for small retail stores. The knock on Walmart is that when they come into an area they run the small stores out of business. Well, wake up people. The small stores in Frederick Towne Mall are already out of business. The 10 or so stores Walmart is proposing to provide space for will be 10 more than are there now.
The mayor and Board of Aldermen had the opportunity to approve the rezoning request for Walmart when they zoned the rest of the city earlier this year. For whatever reason they didn’t do it and chose to kick the can down the road – maybe in the hopes that it would go away.
Walmart hasn’t gone anywhere. It wants to build a store there, and they should be allowed to do so. It’s time for the mayor and board to do their jobs, stop listening to the whining of a few misguided, self-centered people, and get this project underway.
Our elected leaders owe it to the community as a whole to do what they can to restore vitality to this area and eliminate the “embarrassment.”
The time to act is now.