Plan for east Balto. Co. faces major hurdles But officials realize proposal requires patient approach

February 15, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

After two years of gathering energy and commitments to revitalize ailing eastern Baltimore County, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III has a sweeping action plan.

But the county executive's proposal, announced Tuesday, faces some major hurdles -- such as attracting developers to invest fresh money in the area. And the next century will begin before many of the ambitious dreams come true.

"It takes lots of time to do these things," said Walter Sondheim, who directed Baltimore's renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s. County officials, he said, "have to remember you can't do these things overnight and you have to be in the projects for a long race, not a sprint."

The revitalization plan is directed at pockets of Essex, Middle River and other eastside communities hit hard by unemployment, poverty, dilapidated low-income housing and crime. But officials say the effort is crucial to the entire county's stability.

"We have to let people understand that we must generate revenues and the eastside is the future of Baltimore County," Mr. Ruppersberger said yesterday. "I want Essex and Middle River to have the same priorities that Owings Mills and White Marsh had in the past; it is where I am focusing all of our resources."

Nearly every county agency is involved in the plan -- attracting businesses, creating parkland, razing rundown apartments and improving health and education.

Some elements of the plan already are moving forward.

The 400-acre park on the Dundee-Saltpeter Creek, for example, already has received support from the surrounding community and school officials. The park, including a nature center, a model farm, trails and a wildlife preserve, is expected to open by 1998.

Also, the enterprise zone along the North Point corridor is attracting the attention of companies interested in tax credits and utility rate reductions.

But the complete revitalization will take money -- and time.

"You have to develop a market for the things you want to do," said Mr. Sondheim, who chaired the Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management organization. "Then you find developers, and those developers have to believe there is a market for whatever you're pushing."

Mr. Sondheim, who has advised Baltimore's mayors since the 1950s and is a senior adviser to the Greater Baltimore Committee, said county officials "are going about it in the right way. They have a concept, are laying plans they can show a developer."

Some projects, including a Harborplace-like development near Martin State Airport in Middle River, could take a decade to complete, if it comes off at all.

Robert L. Hannon, the county's economic development director, said a formal assessment will be completed in three or four months on the feasibility of the project on Dark Head Cove.

"Investors know we have a solid plan," said Mr. Ruppersberger, who hopes the county's 175-mile waterfront will lure developers. "They know we can work with local, state and federal loan money. They know the projects, and I've already met with builders and developers on a number of fronts. This won't happen overnight."

There is no cost estimate for the entire plan. Mr. Ruppersberger is seeking $2 million in state funds to be matched by the county for a variety of infrastructure improvements along the Eastern and Martin boulevard corridors.

And Mr. Ruppersberger, who was in Annapolis yesterday, said Gov. Parris N. Glendening "recognizes this is important to our region, and he has promised us his support."

The revitalization plan originated in the spring of 1994 in a resolution by Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a 5th District Democrat -- and with the recognition of east county's growing problems.

Sharon Klots, an economic development official, said a major catalyst was the 1994 formation of a steering committee of more than 100 residents, businessmen and others who pushed for a coordinated approach. A year later, creation of the county Community Conservation office gave neighborhood leaders connections to county government.

"It went on the fast track." Ms. Klots said.

Andrea Van Arsdale, author of the revitalization plan, said success will come "one step at a time. We are in this for the long haul."

The plan will be presented today to the county planning board; a public hearing will be held March 21 at the board's offices in Towson. The plan probably won't be voted on by the county council until early summer.

But already the proposal has community support.

"We have to come in swinging, get the cancers under control and revitalize this area and turn it into a showpiece," said Rick Cammack, president of the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce.

Revitalization plan

Here are some elements of the east side revitalization plan:


* Develop industrial lane on Quad Avenue.

* More than 300 acres of potentially developable industrial park at Sparrows Point

* Enterprise zone in the North Point corridor.

* More than 400 acres of developable industrial land at Kelso Drive.

* Yellow Brick Road area's continuing industrial development.

* Continue mixed development at White Marsh.

* Extend Maryland Route 43 from White Marsh to Eastern Boulevard, to reach the 1,000-acre Williams tract in Middle River, where developers want to build an auto raceway.

* Expand corporate jet service to Martin State Airport.


* Study reuse of the vacant Seagram distillery in Dundalk.

* Redevelop land where Riverdale apartments will be razed.


* Potential mini-Harborplace with fish market, hotel, exhibit hall and museum on Dark Head Cove.

* Fort Howard historic waterfront park.

* 85-acre waterfront site at Smogyi Farm.

* Baurer Farm, a waterfront location adjacent to North Point State Park.

* Land and water linkages among public parks.

* Hopkins Landing, possible upscale residential development.

* Dundee-Saltpeter Park, more than 400 acres including a nature center, model farm, trails and wildlife preserve operational by 1998.

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