Panel turns to public

U.S. 1

Business owners, residents to give advice on changes

March 15, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

For the past several months, business and community leaders have been meeting to discuss how to improve Howard County's U.S. 1 corridor.

This week, the conversation will reach out to the public.

On Saturday, the Route 1 Revitalization Committee is holding a five-hour "Quality Community Survey" at Savage Mill to solicit the views of residents and business owners on how best to revamp the beleaguered 10-mile corridor, from Elkridge to North Laurel.

Anyone living or working in the corridor is welcome to attend the workshop, which will be led by New Jersey consultant Anton Nelessen. Participants' views will play a major part in the final recommendations of the committee, which hopes to issue its initial report by June, said Dace Blaumanis, a county planner who is assisting the panel.

"We'll be able to actually quantify and evaluate where the priorities are, what people feel are the worst areas, and that will help us develop a plan on where to start," said Steven H. Adler, managing partner of Savage Mill and co-chairman of the U.S. 1 panel. "This piece gives us the community validation and input into the work our committee is already doing. That is the democratic way to get these big initiatives done."

Those attending will be divided into 17 area groups, depending on which stretch of the boulevard they are from. After an introductory lecture on the evolution of the American arterial highway, guests will be given a "visual preference survey" - about 80 images of the corridor, including pictures as it is now and computer-generated simulations of how it could look.

Participants will be asked which of the images they prefer and will be asked to complete a questionnaire about improving the corridor.

After lunch, Nelessen will lead several mapping exercises. Participants will grade buildings along the corridor on how likely they believe the structures are to change. They will identify what they believe are environmental constraints to development on the corridor and identify sections of the boulevard with the most severe traffic problems.

Nelessen, who recently led a similar workshop in Harford County, said he is impressed by the committee's progress in its discussions to overhaul the corridor.

"They already have an absolutely knock-your-socks-off mapping system," said Nelessen, whose work is funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration. "They have a lot of momentum already, and a planning board and county staff that are totally committed to making this happen."

At the same time, Nelessen said, his travels in the corridor have made clear that the committee has its work cut out for it. He was struck, he said, by how automobile-dominated the boulevard is, in terms of heavy traffic and in the number of auto-related businesses that line it.

"The location is extraordinary in terms of the redevelopment potential," he said, "but what's most devastating as I walked the corridor is the amount of trash that's along it, and buildings that are functionally obsolescent and in terrible condition."

Registration for the workshop, at the Great Room at Savage Mill, is at 9 a.m. The workshop runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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