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Redevelopment: As plans are outlined, decades of uncertainty end for a historic black enclave.

March 02, 2002

THERE IS finally some good news for East Towson. The once-vibrant African-American enclave has a new lease on life. Some historic houses -- including two log cabins -- will be restored, and several new homes built.

Baltimore County's new $1.3 million redevelopment plan settles the future of the area near Towson Library. It has lived in uncertainty ever since 1964, when then-County Executive Spiro T. Agnew targeted it for demolition.

The demolition was to enable a road project that would have involved a tunnel through central Towson. It never materialized, but much of the old black neighborhood withered away. Homes dating back to the mid-19th century were turned into real estate and law offices -- or demolished for parking lots. Nevertheless, a core of old residents remained.

Baltimore County now wants to upgrade the remaining housing stock to attract stable, working families. Its plan calls for the sale of 20 homes in new or rehabilitated structures. The target price is $120,000, with the project to be completed later this year.

Too much of East Towson's original character is gone for the community ever to return to the old days. But "it's never too late to save some part," contends Marcus Pollock, who campaigned for historic preservation there in the mid-1970s.

The long-term significance of the county's development plan is that it will keep East Towson as a walkable, low-density transition zone between York Road's retailers and the high-rises of Joppa Road. This is a desirable outcome in the county seat, which has lost much of its small-town charm to hodgepodge development.

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