Dreaming up ways to develop Dundalk

Panel hears ideas from residents of Balto. County area

November 04, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

The license plates on Bill Hartlove's Chevy pickup read "DUNDALK." The tags on his Chrysler sedan say "DUNDOCK." The retired furniture salesman has more than a passing interest in his hometown, where over the years he's helped organize parades and fairs.

Hartlove's devotion to the eastern Baltimore County community led him yesterday to a public forum with an international team of architects, who are trying to figure out how to revitalize an area whose fortunes have sunk along with those of the steel and shipbuilding industries.

It was a day for residents to air pet peeves and float grand ideas for a place that has seen better times, and wants to again.

"I think there is a shimmer of hope," said Hartlove, 69. "We have a great town. It's got faults, like every other little town does. But we're doing something about it."

The forum, which was held on the Dundalk campus of Community College of Baltimore County, was part of a seven-day workshop led by an Urban Design Assistance Team. The group of 11 architects, city planners and other professionals from as far away as Prague, Czech Republic, volunteer their time and expertise through a program run by the American Institute of Architects.

Dundalk Renaissance Corp., a fund-raising and leadership group, served as host for the visitors.

After touring the community for a few days, the team wanted to hear from residents. About 150 of them filled the campus auditorium yesterday to speak about what they'd like to see preserved or changed. The vast majority of those in the audience have lived in Dundalk for more than 20 years, according to a show of hands. Only two people indicated that they had lived in the community - which in recent decades has had trouble attracting young families - for five years or less.

There were calls to plant trees, demolish vacant buildings, improve the public transportation system, limit Section 8 subsidized housing, build a youth sports complex, improve the sewer system, crack down on zoning violators and prostitutes, paint a mural on a sound barrier, encourage business development, create a water-taxi stop to connect Dundalk and Baltimore's Inner Harbor, smarten up entrances to the community and close pawnshops.

Dundalk Elementary School pupils gave their own suggestions with a collection of drawings on display at St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church, where the team has been meeting and where its recommendations will be displayed from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday

"I would create a house for the poor," a child wrote on his picture.

"I want to change the mall and toy [store] so that it could be next to my house," another wrote.

"I would create an amusement park on Willow Spring Road," wrote another.

At the campus forum, even the adults were thinking big - so big that some worried that the character of the community could get lost in a flood of new businesses or attractions.

"We don't want to lose our little-town feel," said Hope Lee, 37, a nutrition specialist. "We don't want to turn into this cold place that everybody from outside likes to come to. I think we need to be careful."

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