A long-awaited 80-space parking lot in the Baltimore County neighborhood of Oella officially opens today, easing the parking shortage in nearby historic Ellicott City, just across the Patapsco River.
"We're all really thrilled," said Leslie Meilman, vice president of the Ellicott City Business Association. Parking "is one of our biggest priorities."
The new parking lot, at Oella Avenue and Route 144, is the product of a joint-venture between Howard and Baltimore counties. Today's grand opening celebration is expected to attract executives of both counties, local merchants and State Highway Administration officials.
Among those expected to attend are Charles L. Wagandt, president of the Oella Co., and Joe Morea, who owns The Trolley Stop restaurant. The two owned the 1-acre property and gave it to Baltimore County for the parking lot.
The men wanted to build a parking lot there 10 years ago but didn't have enough money, Mr. Morea said.
Howard County eventually financed much of the $360,000 project, while Baltimore County supervised the lot's design, engineering and construction and made some improvements along Oella Avenue, where the lot is located in the 19th-century mill village of Oella.
The free, public parking lot will be managed by the Baltimore County Revenue Authority, an independent agency which operates 20 surface parking lots and parking garages in Baltimore County.
Howard County will finance the lot's maintenance, including resurfacing, trash removal, and utilities.
The new lot adds 80 parking spaces to the eastern end of the fTC historic district, where a 26-space lot previously was the only one in the area.
"It's a fairly substantial addition," said Ed Walter, Howard County's chief traffic engineer.
But Ms. Meilman said the new lot is not enough to solve the historic district's chronic parking shortage.
"It's a good start, but we need to go further," said Ms. Meilman, who would like to see 500 more spaces in the historic district.
According to local merchants, there are about 560 on- and off-street parking spaces for about 230 apartments, retail and professional businesses in the historic district.
But the parking spaces are unevenly distributed throughout the approximately 10-block area, merchants said.