East-side waterfront plan to be unveiled

County hopes to turn Middle River into tourist destination

January 10, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials are scheduled today to unveil a concept of a Middle River tourist destination featuring restaurants, a promenade, retail shops and office space, lofts and upgraded marina facilities.

A waterfront destination could place Baltimore County in competition with other Chesapeake Bay tourist attractions and serve as a major component in revitalizing an aging community.

"This is not the final product but a concept," Robert L. Hannon, the county's economic development chief, said yesterday.

"But it gives everyone a rising perception that Middle River is a pleasant place to live and visit," Hannon said.

The Middle River waterfront destination is crucial to the county's comprehensive redevelopment project in Essex and Middle River.

It is designed to capitalize on proximity to the water by attracting new homeowners and drawing sailing and powerboating business from surrounding waterways.

But first, the plan must pass muster in the community.

Residents will get a chance to comment on the concept drawings at a public meeting at 7 p.m. today at Middlesex Elementary School, 142 Bennett Road, where the project's consultants will discuss their plan.

"This will be the third public meeting on the waterfront destination and, while some changes may be brought forward from area residents, we feel this concept truly reflects the feelings and ideas of the people who live there," said William Jones, the county's waterfront specialist.

If adopted in its present design, the 20-acre site on the headwaters of the river will feature at least two restaurants, one a fine-dining spot, the other more informal and family-oriented.

A mix of shops and small restaurants could occupy 36,000 square feet of retail space, including a delicatessen, coffee bar and ice cream shop, ships' chandlery and other stores with nautical themes.

Twenty one- and two-bedroom lofts would be built over the business cluster facing the water. The idea of building townhouses was dropped, as was the suggestion for a local museum.

Dredging anticipated

Marina operations would be reconfigured, with the likelihood of more dredging of the river to attract larger pleasure craft, both power and sail. (The river has a six-foot-deep channel.)

Larger slips, including 200 wet slips, would have gated docks for security.

There would be enclosed dry storage for 100 other craft, new repair facilities and a dock master.

The plan, offered by a consultant team headed by Whitman, Requardt and Associates of Baltimore, also proposes open space, outdoor seating and a small community center.

The destination would be served by 550 to 800 parking spaces on a tree-lined lot.

"The entire revitalization package, once realized, could take us from the visual to the structural, changing a community's fortunes," Hannon said.

Other portions of the county's eastside revitalization include a $5 million streetscape for Eastern Boulevard and the eventual purchase and demolition of the Villages of Tall Trees apartments for a 50-acre public park.

The first model homes are expected to go up in early spring at WaterView, a development of single-family homes on the site of the old Riverdale Apartments.

And residents and officials alike continue to await forward movement on Hopewell Pointe, a proposed housing, condominium and restaurant complex that appears to have stalled in tough economic times.

As part of the long-term economic boost expected from the revitalization, about 10,000 jobs are expected to be created from the development of 700 acres next to the $60 million extension of Route 43, or White Marsh Boulevard.

Other marinas join effort

Officials say the redevelopment plans have spurred other east-side marina owners to take advantage of two low-interest loans offered by the county and state to upgrade their facilities along the county's 175-mile shoreline.

Marina owners can borrow $10,000 from the county with zero percent interest and a five-year payback time.

Jones said "discussions are being held with several marina owners who are considering refurbishing their properties."

Four marina operators on the east side have each borrowed $25,000 under the state Department of Natural Resources' clean marina project, also at zero percent interest.

Owners of the Baltimore Yacht Club on Sue Creek, Parkside Marina on Frog Mortar Creek, Young's Boat Yard in Edgemere and Anchor Bay East Marina in Dundalk have qualified for the loan after agreeing to take measures ensuring environmental improvements.

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