Issue: July 2007
FROM THE EDITOR: Pilgrims' Progress


With apologies to Robert Frost, I will say this: Something there is that doesn't love a condominium. And I don't mean, as Frost did, nature itself, sending up a ground swell and spilling boulders in the sun. I mean human nature. Some of us humans really don't love condos. No, I mean we really, really don't love them, especially when they change a skyline, or create one where there had been only marshy lowland or derelict oyster packing houses. We say the word "condo" with such venom and disgust that it sounds downright obscene.


Others of us, meanwhile, like condos—especially waterfront condos. We like waterfront condos so much, in fact, that we're willing to pay $300,000 for a three-bedroom unit in Crisfield, Md., which is at least two hours away from everything. And that's the story of Crisfield in a nutshell, as you'll gather from senior editor Jody Schroath's engaging feature in this issue. Once the polestar of Maryland's seafood industry, Crisfield is slowly and fitfully becoming something else. But nobody knows quite what that something else is, or will be. Until a couple of years ago—the last city election, that is—it seemed to be galloping in the direction of Waterfront Residential Mecca. But now, about 400 condo permits later, a new mayor and largely new city council have slowed things to a manageable canter, insisting that the transformation benefit the town's current residents, not displace and alienate them. "Condos are not a bad thing," says Mayor Percy Purnell, though he might have done things a bit differently had he been calling the shots five or six years ago. "Times are going to change, but it needs to be done so people here won't."

There's much more on the table, of course, than condominiums. The most ambitious revitalization proposals call for a complete overhaul of the business district, expanded boater access and public waterfront, docks for visiting cruise ships and tall ships, a hotel and conference center—in short, an extreme makeover. If they can do all that without disenfranchising the current residents, without snuffing out what's left of the town's seafood industry, without turning it into a sterile little Stepford, I'm all for it.

And I remain resolutely neutral on the subject of actual condos. Having seen Crisfield a dozen years ago and then again this spring, I have to say that the town's new skyline isn't all that bad. I may sing a different tune a few years from now, after they've finished the Tangier Sound condo development on the south side of Somers Cove, when there are 11 of those four-story buildings, not just one.

For the time being, though, I'm inclined simply to ask what is being walled out and walled in, and to whom I was like to give offense.