Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger chose the site of his humble beginnings, the now-demolished Riverdale apartment complex in Middle River, to launch yesterday the first phase of building a new neighborhood of young families with a vista of parkland and Middle River's headwaters.
Flanked by supporters on a mud-caked street while bulldozers growled in the background, Ruppersberger announced that he has issued a formal request for proposals for Riverdale, notice to developers and others that the long-awaited Riverdale segment of his east-side revitalization plan is beginning.
Other pieces of the revitalization plan expected for Essex-Middle River include a $60 million extension of Route 43, opening more than 700 acres to industrial development; a $5 million streetscape project on Eastern Boulevard; and Hopewell Pointe, a private development of single-family homes, condominiums, a restaurant and a new marina.
At Riverdale, Ruppersberger said he is aiming for a "high-quality community" of 100 to 150 single-family homes, a commercial center featuring a supermarket and pharmacy, and open space on the 61-acre tract that will overlook refurbished marinas and an upscale waterfront restaurant and small shops.
Developers' plans could be submitted within six months, and work on the project could start within a year.
"Riverdale is the keystone to my plan here on the east side," said Ruppersberger, who lived in a Riverdale apartment as a toddler. "This is so important that it succeed, I can't find the words to express it. This is a promise I want fulfilled."
The Riverdale announcement is the second move in two weeks by the county executive, who is anxious to advance his ambitious revitalization of the east-side waterfront. Last week, officials said they had purchased two prominent commercial properties in the 1900 block of Eastern Blvd. to open the view of the water across from Riverdale.
Both properties were among 312 addresses listed in a law that grants the county condemnation power. That law will be challenged in a November referendum.
The move to start redeveloping Riverdale will take up to a year, and will require rezoning. Plans call for an allowable housing density of between three and five houses per acre.
The executive's vision, if realized, will contrast sharply with the waning days of Riverdale, which was razed in December. Police logged 4,000 calls for assistance in 1994 in and around Riverdale for narcotics, shootings and prostitution-related incidents. The owner, Richard M. Schlesinger of Florida, paid $500,000 in federal fines for skimming profits from the complex.
Ruppersberger, criticized for his failure this year to gather community input on the law granting the county condemnation power, said yesterday that "community input will be essential" to the Riverdale plan.
A developer review panel will include a member of the Middlesex community and the local chamber of commerce. Before selecting a master developer, the county will conduct an informational "open house," during which the public can review and comment on plans submitted by candidates for master developer.
News of the county's action was welcomed by longtime residents of Middlesex, a neighborhood largely made up of blocks of neatly kept brick rowhouses fronted by trimmed lawns.
"We've seen both the good and the bad," said Mary Kromm, 68, former chairwoman of the Middlesex Improvement Association.
"We have a strong group of neighbors, but the area has been declining because of Riverdale," she said. "It got to the point where I was afraid to walk to the store. There were the druggies, other strangers who made it very intimidating near our own homes."