Glen Burnie savors 'its day in the sun' Celebration: After years of unpopular projects, town residents get something they have long desired.

August 21, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Glen Burnie residents, used to feeling like poor relations, their community the place where Anne Arundel County officials stick light rail tracks, the county's recycling bins and its jail, celebrated the latest groundbreaking yesterday.

"This is like a phoenix rising out of the ashes," said Joseph Corcoran, a Glen Burnie resident for 52 years. "North County's getting its day in the sun."

He and about 50 neighbors gathered outside Arundel North Center -- where they remember Sidle's department store was until the 1970s -- to mark the beginning of work on a new 5.5-acre town center.

For nearly 30 years the community has battled for that town center as the way to revive the Glen Burnie of the 1950s. As 74-year-old Bob Crow recalled it, thriving stores lined Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, movie theaters were packed with people and, best of all, Paddock's Bar had the fattest and best sandwiches.

Their hometown had a "heart" then, Crow said.

But shopping centers, starting with Harundale Mall, pulled customers away, and Glen Burnie became less a community than a row of malls on Ritchie Highway.

The new town center, say ambitious planners, will include a 54-unit apartment complex, an ice rink, amphitheater and stores anchored by a 38,000-square-foot Food Lion. Provident Bank of Maryland, a pizza and sub shop, a hair salon and a dry cleaner have signed leases.

Developer J. Lawrence Mekulski, representing Site 8 LP, said he expects all stores to be leased by spring.

Patricia A. Barland, a county administrator who has worked on the town center's planning since 1981, said construction will begin next month.

Those attending yesterday's event expressed relief that the project seemed to be coming together. They made speeches, posed for pictures with shovels and sang the national anthem to accordion music.

The site, bordered by Ritchie Highway to the east, Crain Highway to the west and New Jersey Avenue to the north, was known as the "superblock" in the 1980s. Developers, then riding a building boom, planned to develop 200,000 square feet of office and retail space. They ran out of money.

"I would never have thought it would come to fruition," Crow said. "Glen Burnie is almost like a stepchild of the county. Anybody not from the Glen Burnie area calls us 'rednecks.' We couldn't get funding for this before but I guess people started to find out that people in Glen Burnie vote. We've come along pretty good."

Crow, a 42-year Glen Burnie resident and the hired accordion player at the groundbreaking, said it was about time.

The event brought many people back to the old town center.

Muriel Carter, 70, who was born and has lived all her life in Glen Burnie, pointed out where the Robinson's department store used to be -- across from Sidle's. Everyone in Glen Burnie bought their shoes there, she said.

Farther down along Crain Highway, Carter worked after school in the early 1940s at Albrecht's, a soda fountain.

"That was also where the gang gathered after school," said Carter, who was president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association from 1990 to 1994.

Even the county executive shared memories at the ceremony. Growing up in Green Haven, just south of Glen Burnie, John G. Gary said, he often took the Gibson Island bus to the town center, where he "bought 15-cent burgers at Little Tavern.

"I remember I bought my first pair of Elvis pants at Sidle's back then," Gary said. "It was light blue with a dark blue stripe and stitching. It came with an Elvis jacket, too.

"It's amazing how long it took to get [this new town center planning] done," Gary added. "Some of the older communities in the county feel that they haven't had their fair share of the budget over the years. I'm hoping to start to change that attitude. And we do believe we're going to bring people back into this town."

Republican Del. Michael W. Burns, who represents Glen Burnie, said, "Our constituents really deserve it." In North County, "we get the airport, the prison and the light rail and everyone wonders, 'Where's the good stuff?' "

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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