A vision of hope for Harford Road Architects aim to bring 'identity' to 1-mile stretch

March 14, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Architects hired by the Harford Road community group have sketched a colorful new vision of the gray urban corridor that would make the most of a planned new Safeway and save the old Bond Lumber Co. building slated for demolition.

The aim of the design, said Mike Watkins of Duany Plater-Zyberk, was to give a "sense of identity" to the milelong stretch of Harford Road centered on the Cold Spring Lane intersection, stretching from Parkside Drive to Echodale Avenue.

In a meeting Tuesday night on the Morgan State University campus that concluded a weeklong dialogue, Watkins showed residents drawings of an elaborate watchtower entrance announcing the neighborhood of Lauraville. Houses in view from Harford Road, he said, could be painted white to please the eye.

"There is a sense that this is nobody's place, a no man's land," said Robert Gibbs, a Duany Plater-Zyberk economic consultant.

At the main intersection of Harford Road and Cold Spring Lane, Gibbs pointed out, a closed sandwich shop dominates the landscape, and highway-sized signs amount to what he called visual "vandalism."

"I don't know why you put up with that," Gibbs said, advising the group to use pressure tactics to make business owners comply with city codes. "That makes a very bad impression on the 25,000 cars that go past."

Instead of the road knitting the neighborhood together, residents said, they felt deeply divided by traffic whizzing by. "The city needs to calm the street down," Gibbs said.

Watkins said Harford Road needs to be narrowed at points to make way for more sidewalk space and medians for grass and trees.

But there was good news, too, to temper the bad: "You are a home run in terms of demographics," Gibbs told a room of more than 100 intent listeners. According to 1990 census numbers, he said, the median household income for the 45,000 people in the area is more than $30,000.

To attract other national retailers, Gibbs urged members of the Harford Road Partnership, known as HARP, to spruce up a few blocks for the Safeway grand opening.

Almost all agreed that a new Safeway, which was officially announced at the meeting, could be a catalyst for their plans and dreams. "I'm happy to see it," said Bob Baxter Jr., a third-generation owner of Clifton Upholstery, open since 1915. "It can only help us."

Watkins advised the group to resist plans by a new Pep Boys auto parts store to knock down the Bond Lumber Co. building to put in more parking places: "We don't think that's an even trade."

Small-business owners on Harford Road were treated to tips on how to improve their appeal and appearance after Gibbs and Marian Gillis, HARP executive director, paid impromptu visits.

John Thiess, whose great-grandfather started a plumbing and boat business, was advised to put outboard motors in the window.

A father-and-daughter team opening a fruit and flower market, John and Regina Flucas, heard a way to make their produce baskets look fuller: Stack apples, oranges and onions on empty egg cartons in the baskets.

"That 20-minute talk this morning could be the difference between success and failure," said John Flucas.

Charles Graves, city director of planning, invited HARP to present a plan for a new zoning and code ordinance.

A few neighbors left the forum saying the plans were fun but fanciful. "We have a hard time getting the city to give us a speed bump," said Tina Lazar, "and they're talking columns and pylons."

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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