Joe Crossney's Commentary

User submitted September 6, 2012

Before 1970, the 190 acres which is now known as Carrolltowne was part of the rural countryside in southern Carroll County. Almost the entire property was crop land, primarily cornfields, and had not been actively farmed for many years.

Dr. Philips, a prominent local dentist sold his land in the early 1970's to a joint venture consisting of Commercial Credit Development Corporation and a local shopping center developer. The purchase price was approximately $5,000.00 per acre. The joint venture successfully rezoned the property to a PUD (Planned Unit Development) based on the concept of a totally planned community with open space, retail, and various residential uses. The rezoning was not without opposition as the neighboring communities were suspicious about the type and quality of housing that Carrolltowne would bring.

A condition of the rezoning was the dedication of the 20 acre elementary school site and the reservation of the police and fire station site at the corner of West Hemlock and Liberty Road. Although there has been no fire station erected, the Carrolltowne Elementary School was opened in 1976 and a joint library branch and satellite county office building were built in 1984. The original joint venture split up shortly after the rezoning. In settlement, Commercial Credit took all the residential land in Carrolltowne, and its partner took the 33 acres of commercial land.

The first phase of the Carrolltowne Mall was begun shortly after the building of the school. The second phase, which included K-Mart opened just before Christmas, 1978.

The first residential activity in Carrolltowne was begun in August, 1977, in which 55 lots were recorded, developed and sold to Washington Homes. A second group of 58 lots were sold to the Ryland Group, Inc. The third section of homes was started in the spring of 1979. In 1980, as mortgage rates sky-rocketed and the housing market collapsed, Ryland and Washington homes declined to exercise their remaining options, and some of these options were picked up by local resident Wynn Stevens. Several lots were then developed by Stevens Homes, Perch Realty and Masonry Contractors, among others. The remaining Section II Parcel of 56 lots was developed by Security Development in 1988.

On the other side of Ridge Road the 45 acres of land that is now the townhouses and Carrolltowne II community was originally slated to be part of the Carrolltowne Association. As plans changed for that land, the Association relinquished any claims to annexation of those residences into Carrolltowne. The property was then designated for a higher density residential community. A 40-unit townhouse rental project was erected in 1986.

Carrolltowne Mall opened in the late 1970s as an outdoor mall. The anchors were K-Mart and the A&P Supermarket. The stores were quaint but nice. Some favorites included: Little Professor Book Store, PJs Pub, Ace Hardware, a shoe store, a record store, video rental (VHS and VideoDiscs), and the Carrolltowne Cinemas which had 3 theaters.

We moved away in the mid 1980s, shortly after which the entire mall was enclosed and became an indoor mall.

If the redevelopment plans go into place, it would be a rare mall that was outdoor, indoor, then outdoor again.

Wendy Jaklitsch's Commentary

Posted November 20, 2006 (user submitted)

On the fifth anniversary of my first dead mall photo excursion to Hunt Valley Mall, I trekked westward to see what became of Eldersburg's Carrolltown Center. Most of the area's dead and dying malls were demalled in the past 5 or 6 years, while Carrolltown seemed perpetually stuck in a time warp. As a Baltimore transplant, I don't know a great deal about the history of the mall; it stands at 333,450 square feet, and it appears to have been built in the '70s, along with the surrounding neighborhood of middle-class homes. Carroll County is mostly rural or exurban, and most of its retail is 15 miles away in Westminster; as a result, Carrolltown commanded a captive audience into the 90s. As more Baltimore commuters fled into Carroll County from the declining suburbs to the east, their money and purchasing power followed, but Carrolltown rested on its laurels instead of expanding or otherwise improving. It honestly amazes me that the mall has gone on this long without a renovation and aggressive leasing strategy or a demalling. Considering the rapid population growth and economic stability of the area, as well as the consequent arrival of big-box stores, this mall could have had a chance as a strong local/regional contender if the owners didn't neglect it. Even the precipitous decline of the Liberty Road corridor in Randallstown could have been used to Carrolltown's advantage, as it is only a few miles west on the same road and in an area that is considered much safer. Instead, Carrolltown has gone from the only game in town to a blighted liability in less than 10 years.

On this latest trip, I struck dead mall gold. Carrolltown is in the process of meeting its maker. Much of the corridor between the forlorn, messy Kmart and the dated-looking Peebles (which is the only one I've seen in Maryland, and which approximates a smaller, rundown Kohl's in merchandising strategy) is now sealed off. I asked a Kmart employee about the closure.

Me: Excuse me, but I haven't been here in a few years, and I was wondering what happened to the rest of the mall.
Elderly Kmart Clerk: They're tearin' it down...buildin' something new.
Me: Do you know what they're putting in?
Elderly Kmart Clerk: No idea.

Carrolltown was apparently purchased for redevelopment purposes (, but the details on what will be done with it are vague. My guess is that it's the latest victim of the big-box "lifestyle center" demalling craze. A Wal-Mart went up about a mile to the west, at the busy intersection of Route 32 and Liberty Road, about 7 or 8 years ago; it has since been joined by a Kohl's and a Home Depot. The SuperFresh at Carrolltown closed along with most of the Baltimore area's smaller SuperFresh stores as the chain concentrated on its "super centers"; the area is now served by Food Lion, Martin's, and Safeway. It was replaced by a Big Lots, and I'm pretty sure the Dollar General was part of it too. More than anything else, the loss of SuperFresh seemed to mark the end of Carrolltown as we know it.

I feel bad for this poor little mall. Even though it's been on its deathbed for years, with a table-tennis center, gaming meetup room, and locally run antique and collector stands taking up much of its real estate, it was clean and friendly. The brightly lit, stark white hallways of decades past and the dated, quasi-Western-themed entrance were somewhat endearing, and the Kmart and the smaller chain stores always seemed to do okay. Not anymore. The Kmart was a disorganized ghost town with entire sections that were twisting in the wind. One of the paint section's two chip displays had only a handful of colors; the other was empty. The other mall stores are gone; pretty much all that's left are the anchors, the Big Lots, the Dollar General, and the movie theatre. Strangely, the usual "never say die" culprits (Radio Shack, GNC) are gone, but the table tennis center remains.

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