Year of the Superblock?

March 04, 1994

Could 1994, finally, be the year of the Superblock? That is a question being asked in Glen Burnie, with more than a little skepticism. After all, 14 years is a long time to have expectations repeatedly raised and dashed.

A recap is in order: The Superblock is a 5.6-acre site near Ritchie Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, which Anne Arundel County earmarked for commercial development back in 1980. Despite much talk and mountains of paper, nothing much has happened there. The site, probably the most high-profile gravel parking lot in the county, still awaits development.

Admittedly, urban renewal is tricky under the best circumstances. In the case of the Superblock, it happens to be in the heart of Glen Burnie -- not where most private investment has been of late. In recent years, major retailing has increasingly concentrated along Ritchie Highway's malls and strip centers, or in huge warehouse stores off Ordnance Road. This trend was clear even before the recession halted major development. To make the Superblock more appealing, the Anne Arundel County Council last summer revised the original urban renewal plan.

Instead of insisting on strictly commercial uses, the revised plan calls for mixed-use development. The county re-advertised the site for developer proposals, specifying it wanted a mixture of residential, office and retail uses as well as space for performing and cultural uses. Only one developer -- G. W. Stone Inc. of Pasadena -- submitted a proposal by the Jan. 27 deadline. The plan has not yet been made public, and is being reviewed by County Executive Robert R. Neall. In fairness to the Stone firm, Mr. Neall should take prompt action so that the Superblock can be built or readvertised.

If the current recovery can be sustained, we are certain that a mixed-use development at the Superblock site can be a viable proposition. It is, of course, in the county's interest to get it back on the tax rolls as quickly as possible. We are heartened that strengthening Glen Burnie's traditional commercial district is a top priority for Dan Boyd, the new president of the North Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of what happens to the current Superblock proposal, the county and chamber must work together.

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