The long-awaited renovations to the Olde Severna Park Village plaza have renewed hopes that the area may revive as a town center, but have disappointed some residents who were hoping for a more traditional town center look.
The face lift, which will bring modern facades and green tin-style pre-fab roofs to the 30-year-old plaza, is due to be finished in early November. Work has also begun to repair the badly pocked parking lot.
"We're thrilled, our business has already improved even with all the work still going on," said Laurie Levitt, who bought The Bee-hive and A Frame of Mind artist's supply and frame shop six months ago. "It was just an awful mess before, with a flat run-down roof. There was only one way to go with it."
Levitt, other merchants, the plaza's leasing agents and its management company all say they hope to attract an anchor, a beautician and some other small shops to a plaza that has been on a down slide for 20 years -- thanks in part to the loss of two major anchors, a Safeway supermarket and a W.T.
Grant five-and-dime store.
All would like to see the plaza and surrounding free-standing businesses re-emerge as some kind of town center within a stone's throw of the B & A Trail. With most of Severna Park's shops and businesses lying along Ritchie Highway and no centralized form of charter government, Severna Park lacks any kind of thriving village center.
"We had always wanted it to to be another Easton," 65-year Severna Park resident Hammond "Skip" Carr said, referring to the Williamsburg-Colonial style center of the Eastern Shore town. "But its great to see any improvements."
Carr's own building, housing his O'Conor Piper and Flynn office, is across the street from the village and has been maintained in a colonial style, with red brick trimmed with wood.
Olde Severna Park Improvement Association President Trish Davis, whose organization sponsored the renovation of the old Severna Park Railroad Station, and encouraged the development of several gardens near the village, said she has heard mostly positive comments from the membership about renovations to the shopping center.
"It does have a little of the pre-fab look, but I was actually surprised it's as nice as it is," she said. "They just didn't have the rent to make it a Williamsburg."
Approximately 15 percent of the village's 75,000-square-feet of retail space is vacant, with three small- and one medium-sized retail slots now advertised for lease.
The center is managed by the Robert H. Kent Co. of Rockville.
The old Safeway corner location, after failed stints as a food cooperative and a Mutchnick's grocery, has found a stable occupant as the main headquarters of Champion Realty Inc.
Without the supermarket anchor, the plaza, which lies one block west of Route 2, lost many of its regular customers and some of its tenants to other centers along Ritchie Highway.