CAMBRIDGE, Md.- For the better part of 20 years now, drivers to and from Ocean City on Route 50 have passed through Cambridge and seen an empty shopping center. The long vacant K-Mart property, and several other nearby buildings in the same plaza have been called an eyesore and a disappointment. But a group is interested in making some big changes to that shopping center.
That group is called Fairchild Properties, and it wants to demolish several of the older vacant buildings, at least partially. In their place, the group wants new pads, buildings, and businesses. All by the end of the year.
Vacant buildings are not the kind of sight you want to see when driving down Route 50, unless you're a developer.
"My understanding is the developer just drove by on his way to Ocean City and he saw this. He's a visionary. He saw what could be, not what is," said Cambridge Ward Three Commissioner Frank Cooke.
Fairchild wants to breathe new life into the old center.
"We're going to have a gem of a shopping center and it's going to be done soon. This developer is talking about 2016 or early 2017," said Cooke.
But to do this, some of the current buildings have got to go.
The rough idea as it stands right now, would see that the China Buffet would be taken down. The front of the Kmart building would be shorn off to match the buildings next to it. That office complex over next to Kmart, that would be taken down also. Finally, the Fresh and Green's building, empty for about a year now, would also be taken down.
At Carmela's Cucina, owner Charlie Bono said despite new businesses coming in, he's not worried about competition.
"If you do good food, people will come to you regardless. The thing is, the more business you have, the better you are, because there are more things to do," said Bono.
Some though want to be sure the right businesses are going there.
"I heard rumors about maybe another dollar store. I don't think we should have another dollar store. It should be very upscale for the guests at the Hyatt and the cruise ships coming in, people like that," said Tony Thomas, owner of Canvasback Restaurant.
Locals say they are happy to see the potential for new life in the center, and the old buildings to come down.
"I'm tired of people of thinking that's what our town is, empty. So I'll be very glad to see it going," said Sandy Johnson.
We are still very early on in this process, so those images you saw may not be the final design. Right now the challenge is bringing in businesses to occupy those spaces. The big thing this project has going for it is Route 50, especially in the summer time.
To see all the renderings for what the property could look like, click here.