Group tells of plan for U.S. 40 hub

January 08, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

As members of the Edgewood-Route 24 Task Force revealed their plan for revitalizing Edgewood to the business community Friday, at least one committee member suggested that applying for designation as a state enterprise zone should be a top priority.

Robert Santoni, the owner of Santoni's Market on Hanson Road, told fellow business owners that an enterprise zone designation, which gives businesses in depressed areas tax breaks and other incentives for expansion and renovation, would be a vital redevelopment tool.

His suggestion came as the task force described, with an array of architectural drawings and samples of decorative banners, how it proposed sprucing up the U.S. 40 shopping district in Edgewood.

Landscaping, decorative lighting and sidewalks could stretch to several hubs of activity along U.S. 40 and Routes 24 and 755 in Edgewood with the help of financial contributions from business owners, panelists said.

The task force was created about 18 months ago by Del. Mary Louise Preis, a 34th District Democrat who said she was inspired by the State Highway Administration's $50 million project to VTC extend Route 24 from Interstate 95 to Route 755 in Edgewood. The road improvements, including a ramp off Route 24 to U.S. 40, are due to be completed by early 1996.

"We just tried to build on that," she said, "and find additional

ways to make Edgewood more accessible, usable and livable for residents and businesses."

Since its first community forum in the fall of 1993, the task force has identified seven "nodes" of activity along the three major roads that need attention. They range from the Route 24-I-95 interchange in the north to the MARC station on Route 755 in the south and from the Route 152-U.S. 40 intersection in the west to the ramp under construction in the east.

The most critical hub, because of its visibility -- and the one where the task force decided to begin its work -- is the U.S. 40 shopping district, Mrs. Preis said. The hub is anchored by the Edgewater Village and Ames shopping centers on U.S. 40.

About $100,000, mostly in state funds and matching county grants, has been accumulated to begin to create a "streetscape" demonstration project in the shopping district, said Kirsten Coffen, a Harford County community planner.

The streetscape will include a variety of trees along U.S. 40, accent plantings at intersections and shopping center entrances, a sidewalk, bus shelters and decorative lights and banners with an Edgewood community logo.

The bus shelters will be built by the Mass Transit Administration, and the SHA will pay for sidewalks connecting the shelters to the nearest intersection, Ms. Coffen said.

About 20 students at Edgewood High School entered a contest to design a banner logo that would represent Edgewood's business and residential identity. The task force paraded the work of three of the finalists at Friday's meeting.

Mrs. Preis said government contributions were seed money and that an additional $81,000 -- which the task force asked local business leaders to raise -- would be needed to complete the project.

"There's a community here that needs a shot in the arm," Mr. Santoni said. "The government is giving us guidelines to fulfill a dream. But it's time now for businesses to put their money where their mouth is and get things rolling."

He said that if the Edgewood area could qualify as an enterprise zone, the tax advantages would halve the cost of revitalization investments and offer an incentive to spread the streetscape theme well beyond the main shopping district.

"Enterprise zones are not just for cities," said Mr. Santoni, who has a store in an enterprise zone in East Baltimore. "They can be a tool to attract more business to Edgewood."

Paul Gilbert, Harford County's economic development director agreed: "Edgewood seems to be an ideal candidate . . . because commercial, industrial and residential development is still occurring here."

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