Plan targets ailing area

Harford Co. to unveil $8.5 million effort to revitalize Edgewood

Crime, decay mar image

PAL center, market, low-cost loans, zoning seen as key to change

April 21, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Harford County officials announce today a major effort to revitalize Edgewood by pumping at least $8.5 million into the decaying community, with projects ranging from the demolition of hundreds of vacant military apartments to a crackdown on landlords and tenants who allow the drug trade to flourish.

Activists say the Edgewood Revitalization Strategy might help turn around a community targeted as a police "hot spot" because of its criminal activity and dogged by images of adult bookstores, low-income housing and proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground's chemical munitions.

"Let's face it, when people hear Edgewood they automatically think of drugs and low-income housing. We need this. Edgewood needs this," said Sandy Galloway, a 13-year resident of Edgewater Village apartment complex.

The plan, to be unveiled by Harford County Executive James M. Harkins at a public hearing at 7 tonight at Edgewood High School, also will mean gathering ideas from community residents in a four-hour workshop to be held May 15 at Edgewood Senior Center.

"The idea is to get people from the community as involved as possible," said Joan Morrissey Ward, the Harford County planner who will oversee the project in the newly created post of Edgewood

Revitalization District manager.

The project includes:

A Police Athletic League center in temporary quarters this summer in Edgewater Village Shopping Center that will be staffed by three state troopers and a number of Harford County sheriff's deputies and parks and recreation employees. Plans call for construction of a permanent $1.5 million PAL center at an unspecified location in Edgewood.

A farmers' market that will operate every Thursday this summer from 3: 30 p.m. to 7 p.m. beginning June 17 on a 2-acre, state-owned tract across Old Edgewood Road from the Maryland Rail Commuter station.

The purchase and demolition of two military apartment complexes, Washington Court apartments and Lee Court apartments. The 26-acre Washington Court apartments were vacated in 1994, and the 30-acre Lee Court apartments are to be vacated this fall as part of a federal effort to house fewer military personnel at Aberdeen.

Revitalization of Edgewood Road for the quarter-mile stretch between Willoughby Beach Road and the MARC rail line by making low-interest loans available to businesses and changing zoning codes to allow for a better mix of shops, offices and apartments.

"We're looking at almost creating a whole new downtown in Edgewood," said Ward.

Ward said no firm price has been set for the entire project, but last summer county officials estimated that acquiring and demolishing Washington Court's 55 buildings would cost up to $6 million. Other parts of the project are expected to cost at least $1 million, she said.

She also said certain parts of the project, such as construction of sidewalks along Edgewood Road, will require state funds. Other parts, such as completion of a permanent PAL center and demolition of the apartments, likely will take several years, she said.

Harford County officials say that Edgewood has been turning around in recent years, with middle-income housing developments and commercial growth along the Route 40 corridor.

But they also note that a southeastern slice of the county off Route 24 in the heart of Edgewood -- designated by the state as a "hot spot" eligible for extra police patrol money -- is still troubled.

Although home to 11,000 people, or 6 percent of Harford County's population, that area -- in the core of Edgewood -- accounts for roughly half of the county's violent crime, according to county figures released yesterday.

Galloway, a member of the Edgewood Community Planning Council, which worked with Harford officials to develop the revitalization plan, said many neighbors do not know one another and that many youths in Edgewood have too much spare time and nowhere to go.

She said the project is intended to reverse that by giving Edgewood a sense of community.

"What this will do is bring the community together and maybe help turn Edgewood around," Galloway said.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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