Could it be that after 14 years of a futility belied by its vaunted nickname, the gravel-pitted vacant lot in Glen Burnie known as the "Superblock" is at last ready for development?
The 5.6-acre parcel on Ritchie Highway near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard is the biggest undeveloped piece of land in the Glen Burnie Urban Renewal District.
Decades ago, this would have been prime real estate. Glen Burnie was thriving with shops and restaurants that once included the WB&A lunchroom, McMahon's Barbecue, a hardware store and a toy store.
But Glen Burnie's historic town center lost its luster as retailers migrated to Ritchie Highway's malls and strip centers and, recently, to sprawling warehouse stores off Ordnance Road.
Over the last several years, various schemes to develop the Superblock have been floated -- and sunk. The latest disappointment came in August when then-County Executive Robert R. Neall refused a developer's request for $2 million in government aid to build a mixed-use project. Pasadena builder George Stone was the only developer to submit a proposal earlier this year to create a complex that would include offices, shops and condominiums, as well as an outdoor performing arts area. But Mr. Stone said he needed the government subsidies to make the $10 million to $12 million project work, and the Neall administration said "no thanks."
Now County Executive John G. Gary and the new County Council are looking for ways to provide help with the financing so that the project can be built. Mr. Gary said he intends to ask the General Assembly for between $500,000 and $1 million in bonds and housing grants. Several council members are in favor of waiving impact fees and other costs to make the project viable.
While we support the executive's and council's commitment to build the Superblock, we believe that for the sake of fairness, the project ought to be rebid if the financial packaging is altered. If fees are to be waived or bonds granted, other developers ought to be given the chance to compete to build the project.
Development of the Superblock is an important step in the revitalization of Glen Burnie. It is in the best interest of the entire county to get the property back on the tax rolls.