Enterprise zone holds promise for Edgewood

July 09, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

County officials and community leaders are nothing less than ecstatic over the recent designation of Edgewood as an enterprise zone, where they expect at least 200 jobs to be created and $25 million to be invested in the next three to five years.

The state-funded program geared to revitalizing economically stressed areas will make income tax and property tax credits, as well as some low-interest loans, available to new and existing businesses in Edgewood.

"I think we're sitting on top of the greatest resurrection of a community you could imagine," said Bob Santoni, whose Santoni's Market anchors the 40-year-old Edgewood Shopping Plaza at Edgewood and Hanson roads in the heart of Edgewood. The shopping center, which houses 10 businesses, is scheduled for a face lift beginning later this month.

The designated area includes about 2,500 acres and stretches generally along Route 40 from the Baltimore County line east to Route 24 and along Route 755 from Route 24 south to the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

It was one of four new enterprise zones announced last month by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development. The others were Waterview Industrial Center in Baltimore City, the town of Snow Hill in Worcester County and the city of Fruitland in Wicomico County.

The designation could be just the incentive that hesitant commercial and industrial investors need for making a commitment to improving the aging community in southern Harford, community leaders said.

Edgewood Shopping Plaza is one of eight sites within the enterprise zone where improvements or additions are being proposed, said Paul Gilbert, Harford director of economic development. He suggested the idea of an enterprise zone to Route 40 business leaders last winter.

The largest proposed improvement is a 100-acre industrial park to be constructed near Routes 7 and 755 adjacent the S & G Concrete Co. To be called Lakeside Business Park, it would be developed by FRP Development Corp. of Sparks and would house offices and manufacturing operations. Mr. Gilbert said that if it is used at the same density as Riverside Business Park, Lakeside could be home to 1,200 jobs.

Other projects that have been announced within the enterprise zone include:

* A $3.5 million ice skating arena to be built in the William Paca Industrial Park on Route 7, east of Route 24. Tobias Kaye, who heads the group building the rink, said ground will be broken later this month and a 63,000-square-foot facility will open by November.

* Construction of a corporate headquarters building for Aberdeen Proving Ground Credit Union in Woodbridge Center on Route 40. The 60,000-square-foot building would house more than 200 employees, some of them in new jobs.

* Expansion of the Walk-In Medical Center in the 2000 block of Pulaski Highway. Dr. Rafiq Patel says he'll double the size of his clinic, where general medical care, minor surgery, physical therapy and radiology services are offered.

* A 55,000-square-foot expansion of the USCO distribution center in Fashion Park, off Route 7.

* A distribution center to be built for the Clark Group in the Paca Industrial Park. The New Jersey-based distributor of newspapers and magazines plans to hire up to 60 people.

* Construction of corporate headquarters for Wolpert and Master Hydroseeding and Landscaping in Clayton Station, a commercial park on Route 40.

Mr. Gilbert estimated that, including the cost of building the infrastructure for the proposed Lakeside Business Park, about $25 million would be invested by private companies in the eight projects already proposed in the enterprise zone. As a result, he said, about 350 jobs -- 200 of them new -- would flow into the Edgewood area in the next one to three years.

Through the program, companies in an enterprise zone are eligible for a 10-year property tax credit for expansions and renovations. They also can get a $500 income tax credit for each job created and up to $3,000 for each "economically disadvantaged" person hired to fill a new job.

"All the enterprise zone does is rely on tax incentives to spur private investments," Mr. Gilbert said. "It's not free money. It feeds the opportunity for investment by the private sector."

Community leaders agree that the state recognition is a positive step for an area that has suffered from a poor image and social and economic deterioration for years.

Like many of the older suburban areas in the Baltimore metro area, Edgewood is beset by increasing unemployment and declining wages, rising crime, an aging population and deteriorating commercial centers that no longer adequately serve the people surrounding them.

Many of its neighborhoods date to the 1950s and 1960s. While the homes have remained well-kept, with clean streets and neatly maintained lawns, the years have not been as kind to the commercial areas of Edgewood.

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