Plans for 'Superblock' collapse again, over aid

August 21, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Plans to develop the Glen Burnie "Superblock" have stalled, again.

This week, negotiations on the latest plan to put an office and residential complex on the 5.6-acre parcel fell apart after County Executive Robert R. Neall refused to provide $2.2 million in county financial aid to the developer, George W. Stone.

In a letter to the committee reviewing Mr. Stone's proposal, Mr. Neall wrote that "at this time the county possesses neither the financial resources nor the justification to continue our negotiations" with Mr. Stone.

Pat Barland, the county's urban renewal program manager, said the $10 million to $12 million project would have combined condominiums and office space in "a concept untried in Anne Arundel County except for Annapolis."

The parcel on Ritchie Highway near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard is the last big undeveloped piece of land in the Urban Renewal District. It remains undeveloped despite more than a decade of county efforts.

The original Superblock plans, adopted in 1980, called for 200,000 square feet of office and retail space, plus a five-level parking garage. The project's size was reduced slightly about four years ago, but no developer came forward.

Until Mr. Stone's proposal, the most recent plan involved creating a commercial complex.

Ardath Cade, who oversees urban renewal, said Mr. Stone's project simply became too costly. Still, she hasn't given up hope the land can be developed.

"The important thing is that over the last few years the community has been brought together and evolved what they see as important for the center for their community," said Mrs. Cade, the county's human relations officer. "What people said they wanted was an area where you could come and feel at home and . . . had a daytime, nighttime sense of being alive. They did not want it to be high-rises or impersonal."

Ms. Barland said the county has had trouble developing the site because it is a small parcel and because participating in an urban renewal program imposes certain restrictions on developers.

"In this particular project there also was the added cost of building residential space above commercial space," she said. "The cost escalates because there are more stringent fire code requirements. The financial gap grew to the point where we couldn't go forward."

Despite the setback, Ms. Barland said she doesn't believe the Superblock is dead.

"This was untried. Mr. Stone would have been taking a risk," she said. "This has been a learning experience. We did learn the county has to offer more incentives. [Gov.] William Donald Schaefer, when he was mayor of Baltimore, was a master at finding incentives to get downtown Baltimore going. We'll just have to be creative and do the same thing here. This is the type of concept that brings life downtown."

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