Superblock condos proposed Office, retail uses called unlikely now

September 18, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

A Silver Spring developer pitched a condominium complex yesterday for the downtown Glen Burnie Superblock, making it the third proposal for housing on a site the county has long considered perfect for offices and stores.

Joseph E. Brimmer, vice president for construction of Della Ratta Inc., told members of the Glen Burnie Urban Renewal Advisory Committee that his firm could put four five-story buildings with 144 apartments on the site that borders Crain Highway, Ritchie Highway and Delaware Avenue.

The plan included ground-level parking under each building for one car per apartment with entrances from Crain and Ritchie highways.

Committee members, who long have hoped to revitalize a business district in Glen Burnie's Urban Renewal core, questioned the lack of businesses in the proposal.

But Mr. Brimmer said it would be "nearly impossible" for him to obtain financing for offices or retail space in the current economy. Nearly one-fourth of North County office space is vacant, according to recent studies.

This is the third time the committee has been told by a developer that the county's plan for 170,000 square feet of offices and stores, plus a parking garage, makes no economic sense for the 5.6-acre tract.

Similarly, Della Ratta echoed the other two developers who said the best way to enliven the area would be to add people who make downtown Glen Burnie their home.

Frank Scott, whose family-owned Glen Burnie company, FJS, developed Cromwell Fountain condominiums, proposed a 240-unit condominium complex for the site. He left open the possibility of including a few street-level stores on the Delaware Avenue side, should the economy change drastically.

A team led by developer George W. Stone has proposed a combination that includes fewer condominiums and stores fronting on Delaware Avenue.

Committee members did not comment on yesterday's plan, but suggested that a plan that included businesses likely would be better received.

The original Superblock plans, adopted in 1980, called for about 200,000 square feet of office and retail space, plus a five-level parking garage. That was reduced slightly about four years ago, but no developer has proposed building even the smaller complex, even though the prospects for an extension of light rail nearby seem promising.

Della Ratta proposes to buy the land for the buildings -- which would cover about one-fourth of the site -- for about $720,000 and landscape the rest for an open-air community gathering area. The entire Superblock was appraised about four years ago about $1 million, said Glenn Mathiasen, community master planner.

County officials, meanwhile, have scheduled a public forum Monday, Sept. 28, to discuss plans for development of the Superblock.

The site now is a parking lot, part paved, and the only commercial venture on it is a plant and produce kiosk. A temporary arts pavilion is being planned for part of the site.

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