County razes store to pave way for new parking lot

September 04, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County began razing the dilapidated Carey Tire Co. store in the heart of Bel Air about two weeks ago to build a parking lot.

County officials bought the cream and brown building and the half-acre of ground around it last year from Towson developer James F. Knott for $443,000. They had hoped to convert the former store into a storage facility and save the land for future county construction.

But last year, inspectors declared the cinder block building unsafe because of a deteriorating roof and walls. The building, at Main Street and Churchville Road, was at least 70 years old, and had long been regarded as a local eyesore.

Officials are spending $43,600 to raze the building and fill the site with dirt.

David Sewell, the county's chief of facilities and operations, said additional money will be spent to pave the lot, part of which will be used for visitor parking for county offices that dot the downtown Bel Air area, and to landscape the property.

County officials say the parking lot is only a temporary use for the site, which is one of the last empty parcels on Main Street. Although no formal plans have been presented, the county wants to revert back to a 1989 proposal to construct a county building on the site.

The property sits at one of the busiest intersections in town and borders county-owned land that includes the parking lot behind the sheriff's office at 45 S. Main St.

"At some point in time, this will be a prime building spot for a new central administrative building," said Larry Klimovitz, county administrative director.

The county faced an office space crunch in the late 1980s, which prompted a discussion about a possible new executive building. In 1989, Mr. Knott met with the County Council and proposed to develop one and sell it to the county.

But a downturn in the economy and change in the county administration quickly halted the project. When County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann took office in 1990, she opted to lease space for departments that needed offices.

"The urgency for a new building has lessened," said George F. Harrison, a Rehrmann spokesman. "The demand for a new building is not there. We're looking at this property for future use. If for some reason this does not happen, it conceivably could be sold."

Roger Mainster, president of the Harford County Association of Realtors, believes the county made a good investment in the site.

"It's great that they took advantage of it," said Mr. Mainster, a real estate appraiser. "The county is planning for the future. . . . No matter how you slice it, they paid the right price."

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