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Eckerd and the Route One Corridor

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by Ann Ferguson

In May the town government learned that Eckerd Drugs had signed options to purchase five properties in the 6200 block of Baltimore Avenue as the site for an 11,000 square foot drug store. To construct the new building, five existing buildings would be demolished beginning with the building at East-West Highway (formerly the shoe repair shop) moving south to take in all other buildings up to, but not including Lynn Animal Hospital. The final building they intend to demolish was constructed in 1928 and a centerstone on its front reads:

Sonnenberg Brothers
Bakery
Estab. 1899
Erected 1928

In 1993, a revitalization plan was approved which included the buildings at Town Center and the buildings on the east side of Route One in the 6200 block. The plan was approved after a series of meetings attended by residents, business owners/operators, the Mayor and Council and Park and Planning staff.

It was intended that these buildings be included in the planned revitalization area based on the fact that they represented the town's early commercial centers. While the architecture is eclectic, it has personality and flavor and defines an identity for the town.

The plan recognized that some of the buildings were deteriorated and it would be better to rebuild on their site, however, it was specified that the rebuild include the best architectural elements to replicate what is there today.

Eckerd Drugs proposes to construct a rectangular box in a lagoon of parking spaces--duplication of the strip mall design that plagues so many major roadways in our country.

Once we learned of the Eckerd plan, we invited their representatives to meet to discuss the fact that this site was in a revitalization area. We explained the 1993 plan to them and requested that they work with the plan, agreeing that the buildings could be replaced if they were reconstructed in accordance with the goals laid out in 1993. They responded that they did not do that type of development.

Eckerd and other national drug store chains have invaded small towns across the country by imposing anonymous boxlike structures, surrounded by parking, on "main on main" street corners to increase their profit margin. In cases where the local government and its citizens have resisted this takeover, Eckerd and other chains have revised their plans to fit the demand that community character be preserved.

By combining various federal and state grants, the town has invested almost 1.5 million dollars in infrastructure improvements in the revitalization area. These improvements all followed the goals laid out in the 1993 plan. If we concede to the big money interest of corporate chains that have no respect for our identity, we will become an "Anyplace, USA" and no longer be Riverdale Park, Maryland--a geographic location with meaning to its people.

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