Glen Burnie's forgotten merchants ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

October 13, 1992

The Glen Burnie "Superblock" is still a great nothingness, but at least Anne Arundel County officials now admit that the dream to which they have clung for years -- a 200,000-square-foot office complex at the site in the center of town -- is never going to come true. Now the question is what to do with this 5.6-acre eyesore.

First, though, another question begs answering: Is the county serious about revitalizing Glen Burnie's downtown? If it is -- and it should be -- then it's time to listen to the business people whose livelihoods hinge on the Superblock.

Strangely enough, the downtown merchants have been virtually shut out of discussions about the Superblock. The county's Urban Renewal Advisory Committee has not included a single downtown businessman for several years, despite numerous requests for such an appointment. Recent county-sponsored work sessions have been dominated by the Glen Burnie Improvement Association -- a homeowners' group -- more than by the business community.

Of the new ideas floating about, only one would be helpful to the business district. Fortunately, Glen Burnie residents like it. Unfortunately, it isn't feasible right now.

The concept of low-rise development with a mix of shops, apartments or condominiums and perhaps an amphitheater or town square is a pipe dream until the economy improves.

Several developers have proposed affordable housing, possibly one of the few profitable projects that could be built in a crummy economy. But that wouldn't help the downtown.

Then there are those who say we should make the Superblock into a park, or build a pool or a cultural center -- all nice ideas in and of themselves. But a park or recreational facility can't infuse enough life into the commercial district to save it.

Besides, it wouldn't be fair to the county, which years ago ate up the most valuable real estate in the Glen Burnie town center for a county office building and courthouse, to use this last piece of property for one more tax-exempt use.

What the business district needs is a distinctive commercial draw, and it won't get that until the economy improves. So clean up the Superblock. Plant some trees there. The Superblock has waited 15 years. Don't blow it now.

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