Ruppersberger's vision

Renewing suburbia: County executive offers bold plans to stimulate investment.

January 06, 2000

COUNTY Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's plans to rehabilitate the Middle River waterfront and the Liberty Road commercial centers and create a much-needed town center in Owings Mills go far beyond the patching and mending of his first five years in office.

Mr. Ruppersberger's proposals are ambitious development initiatives normally undertaken by cities and not suburbs to halt the downward spiral of older communities and ensure that newer ones realize their potential. Once completed, these plans should help curb the flight of middle-class families from the east side and attract new residents and businesses to Owings Mills on the west.

Mr. Ruppersberger has fixed alleys, spruced up parks and demolished a number of decrepit multi-family apartment complexes in the county's Middle River-Essex area. But his plans so far have ignored the water.

The new plan calls for the county to create a waterfront village with views and access to Middle River and Hopkins Creek -- a destination that will attract shoppers, boaters and visitors.

In the Liberty Road corridor, another rehab is planned. Currently, the area around Old Court Road is overwhelmed by half-vacant shopping centers and apartment complexes. The county wants to replace two strip centers and a shopping center with an office complex. The county, which has already demolished the Savoy East Apartments, wants to raze part of the Villages of Huntingdon to reduce the neighborhood's concentration of multifamily units.

Creating a town square around the Owings Mills Metro station will give character that would differentiate it from traditional suburban development. With the Mass Transit Administration, Mr. Ruppersberger proposes building a 2,200-space parking garage and giving a developer the right to build a commercial and residential complex on the 47 acres of parking lots surrounding the station.

All of these initiatives are quintessential Smart Growth development. Gov. Parris Glendening should be an enthusiastic booster of Mr. Rupperberger's request for $24 million in state matching funds to begin work on these worthy projects.

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