As more young families were drawn to the area for its moderate-priced housing, convenient shopping and access to the Beltway, business followed. The proliferating gas stations supplied "a suburban community that depended on the automobile," says Wolfson, a residential representative on the area corporation board who worked on the revitalization plan.
Hers was one stage of the corridor's growth.
Campbell, of the Liberty Road Community Council, belonged to a later one.
The neighborhoods that flesh out the Liberty Road spine were predominantly white when Campbell moved into the Stevenson section in 1970. She and her husband were part of a trend of black migration in the decade that followed. Today, the Baltimore County Council's 2nd District, which includes the Liberty Road corridor and its communities, is 40 percent black, the highest percentage of any council district in the county.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
Although some merchants worry about the approach of "urban" problems, meaning crime and decay, the neighborhoods remain solidly middle class. Median household income was estimated last year at around $45,000 in the communities lining the corridor.
If the haphazard commercial development along Liberty Road gives little sense of vision, the corporation's plan would attempt to offer one. With new strategies for zoning and marketing, the plan would encourage concentration of automotive businesses on certain blocks. It also proposes assembling vacant properties for development as new retail centers that could enhance Liberty Road's off-price image, possibly sit-down restaurants, sporting goods and toy stores and midscale department stores.
After a public hearing on it, the plan ultimately needs the approval of the County Council as an amendment to the county's long-range master plan. The plan seeks to guide development in the corridor through the decade.
The upscale suburbanites will continue to shop for their clothes at stores such as Banana Republic in Owings Mills Mall, says Janas, the corporation director. But, when their children need new clothes and supplies for the next school year, he expects they will search Liberty Road for bargains.
Campbell and others, however, envision a conversion of Liberty Road to something more like Owings Mills. She wants the area to exchange what she derides as "low-grade stores" for elegant restaurants, computer software stores and camera shops.
But Wolfson, who witnessed the formative years of the corridor's commercial identity, cautions against such hopes. "You have to be realistic," she says. "Bloomingdale's is not going to open up on Liberty Road."
Where disagreement over the plan lies
Disagreement over a plan drafted by a business group to upgrade the Liberty Road corridor in western Baltimore County centers on these points:
* To relieve traffic, the plan by the Liberty Communities Development Corporation calls for a connector road from Owings Mills, new connections between shopping center lots and an extension of public bus service from the present turnaround at Chapman Road about a mile west to Deer Park Road. Some opponents say extended bus service would carry (( criminals to their neighborhoods.
* The development corporation, made up of about 200 merchants along the corridor, opposes any building moratorium lest it inhibit efforts to develop abandoned properties. The Liberty Road Community Council, however, an umbrella group of neighborhood groups along the corridor, believes the county should wait to expand water and sewer capacity before allowing new development.
* While some residents point to current vacant office buildings as proof that more aren't needed, the corporation recommends the creation of more office space as part of an overall market strategy for the area. Its reasoning: Corporations that may want the prestige of an Owings Mills address for their headquarters could be attracted to lower rents along Liberty Road for satellite offices.
The corporation was asked by the previous Baltimore County administration to draft an update to an original revitalization plan done in 1980. Under that plan, some areas of the corridor were renovated, landscaped or developed. In the proposed update, the corporation says that the influx of franchise stores, population and traffic in the past decade and the burden on an aging infrastructure call for new strategies.