Old road needs U-turn Harford Road Partnership sees plan for business area

In decline for years

Residents fear deterioration could spread to housing

March 16, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

Residents along a two-mile stretch of Harford Road, which for years has been in a downward spiral of urban blight, took a glimpse into the future of what could be done to revitalize their area and preserve property values.

Last Tuesday night at Morgan State University, the Harford Road Partnership (HARP) ended a weeklong master planning workshop for the revitalization of Harford Road south of the Hamilton Business district. Residents and business owners listened as Mike Watkins, senior designer at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., and Robert Gibbs, a retail consultant with the same firm, showed renderings of how the commercial strip could be rejuvenated and returned to the surrounding neighborhoods.

While residents of Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Lauraville, Morgan Park, Waltherson and Mayfield have kept their neighborhoods strong, they realize that the areas just beyond Harford Road were beginning to deteriorate. And it had become their greatest fear that the deterioration would creep into their tight-knit neighborhoods and destroy their value.

"You go through Beverly Hills and see the nice signage and median strip and the trees, it's just lovely," said Kathleen Kotarba, a 15-year resident of Arcadia and the city's executive director for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

"That gives you one impression, and then you look at Harford Road and that gives you another impression," she said. "In our neighborhoods the housing is absolutely consistent, but Harford Road right now does not present the best fashion of the area.

"We're in that first ring of suburban development, even though we are in Baltimore City. I'd like to think our area as being involved in the grandest era of suburban development.

"Our front lawn is Herring Run Park," Kotarba said. "The housing is very sympathetically designed; the garages are where they should be. I'm very proud of our concrete-block garage, which is in the back of the house; it's not out on the street. The houses in this area have some of the best features of suburban living. The commercial part of that has been out of sync with that in recent years."

She had seen the decline of Harford Road for some years. She has watched as her neighbors took their dollars to Hamilton or Belvedere Square to shop. In fact, a study by Gibbs indicated that approximately $20 million a year is spent outside the community.

But that will soon change. Coming to the 4400 block is a 42,000-square-foot Safeway supermarket on the former site of a Mass Transit Administration bus barn. Following that will be a Rite Aid drug store and a Pep Boys auto store.

Residents were shown renderings of how redoing facades, adding sidewalks, planting shrubbery and removing billboards will enhance the area.

"There is a very unorganized mixture between business and residential," Gibbs said. "From a marketing point of view, it's a negative because it confuses the customer. Our plan recommends that the residential areas be identified as strongly landscaped and coded to look like residential area."

Watkins added that to enhance the area, houses along Harford Road, especially at the gateways, should be painted white. "We think it can be quite a striking entrance that lets people know right away that there's a residential neighborhood beyond," he said.

Once the retail area is revitalized, Kotarba says, the residents will come back to Harford Road and make it a model for the city.

"The neighborhoods are steady," she said. "We would like to have all the kinds of commercial uses there that we would all need. Obviously, as the commercial part of it gets stronger, the property values will go up."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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