Gary plan could revive 'Superblock'

January 29, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers and TaNoah V. Sterling | Carol L. Bowers and TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Consella A. Lee, John Rivera and Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

County Executive John G. Gary's proposal to turn the Arundel Center North into an Anne Arundel Community College campus may be the catalyst to revive at last the vacant 5.6 acres at the heart of Glen Burnie known as the Superblock, say merchants and county council members.

For 15 years, the site has sat vacant as developers failed to come up with a plan residents and county officials would approve. It is the last piece of undeveloped, county-owned land in the Glen Burnie Urban Renewal district.

Local merchants say the influx of college students would supply them with customers and pique the interest of someone to develop the vacant lot between Ritchie Highway, Delaware Avenue and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. It also could keep people downtown later than 5 p.m., when Glen Burnie usually is deserted, they said.

"We're pretty excited about it," said Adam Feierabend, manager of Twilite Zone Comics. "I think it would help us tremendously. There's no doubt in my mind, no doubt about that. A lot of college students collect comics."

County Council members also seem confident that Superblock will become a reality this time.

"We've gotten the county together, business and government all working in the same direction," said James E. "Ed" DeGrange, who represents Glen Burnie on the County Council.

Under Mr. Gary's plan the county would build an ice-skating rink and an amphitheater on part of the Superblock and turn over the Arundel Center North nearby to the community college, which already uses most of the space in the building.

A developer would complete the block as a village center with shops, housing and restaurants.

"I think students will spend money to buy food at the restaurants in the Superblock before class, or as they leave, they may frequent the local pub," Mr. Gary said.

Friday, he appointed a 13-member Glen Burnie Town Center Advisory Committee, similar to committees that devised town center plans for Odenton and Parole. Among the new committee's members are Henry L. Hein, James Russell, and former state Sen. Alfred J. Lipin -- all Glen Burnie residents and members of the original Glen Burnie Urban Renewal Advisory Committee.

Patricia Barland, who oversees the Glen Burnie Urban Renewal Project for the county, said care in selecting the right project and encouraging community involvement will pay off. College officials said they are preparing a proposal and cost estimates for renovating the Arundel Center North.

Martha A. Smith, president of the college, said in earlier interviews that the school would locate one or two entire programs, such as business administration, at the building, where the college already offers 20 to 25 classes each semester.

Mr. Gary's plan adds the college, ice rink and amphitheater to one rejected last year by former County Executive Robert R. Neal.

Pasadena developer George W. Stone proposed the shops, housing and restaurants, but Mr. Neall refused to spend $2.2 million in county money to offset Mr. Stone's construction costs.

Nancy Boryk, Mr. Stone's market manager, would not say whether the county had approached the company again, but said that the company still would seek $2.2 million if it submits another proposal.

Mr. Gary has said he hopes to obtain up to $1 million in state funds to offset development costs and make the project attractive to developers.

"I don't see how it could hurt," said Ron Freeland, owner of The Bike Peddlers on Central Avenue. "It definitely needs something because that area is dying over there."

Mr. Freeland opened his first shop on Delaware Avenue in 1971, but moved to Central Avenue in May 1992 -- in part, he said, because he saw nothing happening around the Superblock.

The community was behind Mr. Stone's original proposal, and the idea of expanding the college's presence could be an asset, Ms. Barland said.

"From the standpoint of making [the community college] accessible to people from North County it can be successful," she said. "It's amazing what a difference 10 miles can make as to whether people take advantage of an opportunity."

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