Reisterstown improvement plan wins funding from state, BTC county $6.7 million will go toward sidewalks, roads, gutters

September 19, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

On the lane where John Reister's Colonial tavern once flowed with home-cooked rye whiskey, 20th-century merchants now sell everything from dusty antiques to gleaming kitchen gadgets. Reisterstown's historic Main Street is a place to shop -- or at least to browse and stroll.

But watch your step.

"We've got broken sidewalks, a bad-looking street and the usual, bad-looking lighting," says John L. Herman Jr., proprietor of a Main Street antique store.

Adds Carolyn B. Eichler, co-owner of a Main Street auto repair shop: "I moved here in 1948, and the sidewalks have never been done at all."

Now, however, business owners in downtown Reisterstown are eagerly awaiting new, brick sidewalks -- along with designer street lamps and a new road surface.

The improvements, part of a long-awaited, $2 million "streetscape" and road project, are designed to make Main Street's business district more inviting for locals and day-trippers alike.

"When people think of antique rows and gift-shop rows, they think of a Georgetown kind of look, or Ellicott City or places like New Market with an old-fashioned decor," says Herman, whose Things You Love store sells vintage furniture and artwork in a centuries-old house built by Reister, the farmer who founded the community. "When you look different and have that identity as a novel area, it will bring people in."

Says Eichler, co-chairwoman of the committee that pursued the project: "It just needs to be better. This way, we can show what an old town can look like."

Eichler, who with her husband owns Bransfield Motor Co., says a streetscape project first was discussed by Baltimore County officials in 1980. That plan died after business owners complained that they had been shut out of the planning process.

Since then, refurbished town centers have been credited with spurring business activity in Pikesville and Parkville.

Interest in a Reisterstown project was renewed about six years ago, when state highway officials began to talk about repairing the road, curbs, gutters and concrete sidewalks. It seemed sensible to arrange for those repairs to be done at the same time as the roadwork, but until now money for both wasn't available.

The project finally was able to move forward in July, when state officials announced it would be included in a $6.2 million state program to enhance streets in decaying commercial districts across Maryland.

The Baltimore County Office of Community Conservation also has pledged $500,000 toward the brick sidewalks and the street lamps. Affected property owners are to pay a quarter of that cost over five years, but they can receive credits against that assessment by spending money to improve their properties.

"We recognize that Reisterstown is a vibrant area. It's an older community truly at a crossroads," says Stephen Lafferty, manager of neighborhood revitalization for the community conservation office.

The project calls for Main Street to be resurfaced from Chartley Drive to Route 30. Brick sidewalks are to run from Glyndon Drive to Cockeys Mill Road, and along another stretch north of Chatsworth Avenue to Route 30.

David J. Malkowski, the State Highway Administration's district engineer for Baltimore and Harford counties, says the project is to be advertised for bids in November. He says construction is to start in March and be completed in November 1997.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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