Pikesville merchant blasts revitalization

June 10, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Jeffrey Levin, owner of Fields Pharmacy in Pikesville, believe the area's $1 million street-scape beautification project is a waste of money, and he held a news conference yesterday to get his message out.

A Pikesville booster whose family has owned the pharmacy at 1401 Reisterstown Road since 1946, Mr. Levin said the project will not bring any aesthetic improvement to the area unless utility lines are buried and the poles removed.

County officials said they would like to bury the unsightly lines, but said the cost -- more than $1 million per block -- is too high.

Sidney M. Friedman, an accountant who is president of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said the project is "fantastic" for old Pikesville and sends a message of renewed vitality and commitment to people who visit the area.

"There were some empty businesses on Reisterstown Road," said Mr. Friedman. "Now the Pikesville core is starting to fill up. It's an awakening. People feel better coming into the area."

County Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, who represents Pikesville, said the county's commitment of money for the work helped convince investors to open restaurants in empty stores, giving a boost to the area and providing more revenue to the county.

"It's a tremendous value gained," he said and characterized Mr. Levin's criticism as "one man's opinion."

Mr. Levin is the only one of 60 business owners in the four-block project area who has refused to participate.

The project, begun along Reisterstown Road from Old Court to Sudbrook roads in September 1992, will provide "designer" sidewalks, new landscaping and trees, a large new granite and brass sign welcoming motorists to old Pikesville, benches, sculptures and Victorian-style streetlights, said Carol Carpenter, the county's revitalization specialist.

The new sidewalks are a salmon color, and have inlaid granite squares. A plaza with a fountain is being built next to Fields Pharmacy. Dedication is scheduled for July 22.

Each participating merchant is spending about $2,000 to spruce up their business fronts in lieu of reimbursing the county an equal amount in taxes.

The county money comes from a bond issue approved by voters in 1988.

Because Mr. Levin has not participated, he will be billed about $2,000, Ms. Carpenter said. Yesterday, Mr. Levin said he wants to redo his own sidewalks to match the county's, spending $6,000 of his own money.

Opinions are mixed among other merchants on the street. Sidney Cohen, owner of Gallery 1330, which sells fine glassware and art, called the project "a very fine thing." Myer Summerfield, whose family has operated a photography studio in Pikesville since 1946, agreed.

"It's going to create a walking crowd. The lights are up and people feel safer," he said.

Others agree with Mr. Levin, even though they signed up as participants. Irving Glasser, owner of a small tobacco store, said the large planters will likely become trash receptacles. He said construction disrupted his best business months in November and December.

"It's not going to bring retail sales into the stores," he said.

Stanley Brown, part owner of a nearby jewelry store, said the project won't "make any difference. It won't bring people here from Glen Burnie, from Towson."

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