Progress in Pikesville (At Last)

March 18, 1991

It sounds almost too good to be true. But after more than a decade of talk and abortive plans, Pikesville's revitalization finally is a live possibility.

First came a legislative deal that settled a bitter feud over the location of a new District Court. Owings Mills, as it should, will get the court, along with an innovative jail for drunken drivers built on state-owned land. But a new government office center is earmarked for Pikesville, with the Baltimore County elections board, a Catonsville Community College branch and State Police computer center as its anchors. "After 10 years of battling, we have finally come up with a solution," state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger beamed.

Now comes a proposal from County Executive Roger B. Hayden and Councilman Melvin G. Mintz that would authorize the county to begin negotiations about acquiring the old Pikes Theater in the 1000 block of Reisterstown Road. That theater, which has been dark for eight years, would be converted into an arts center. "A performing and cultural arts facility in the Pikes Theater would not only bring needed culture to the community, but it would be a vital economic development tool," says Howard J. Needle who has assembled a powerful booster organization to coordinate planning and fund-raising.

Difficulties remain. The Pikes purchase has to be finalized; a site for the new government office center has to be found. But those questions should be relatively easy to settle now that these two important revitalization projects have been identified.

The timing could not be better. The county is spending $2 million to upgrade sidewalks and provide fountains and greenery for the old Pikesville commercial district. A new connector road is being built from Old Court Road to Walker Ave. "Looks like things are beginning to pop in Pikesville," says Paul Umansky, president of the Pikesville Community Growth Corp.

The Baltimore County Council should waste no time in authorizing the county to start negotiations with the owners of the old Pikes Theater. This momentum should not be lost.

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