Hope for York Road

May 13, 2002

WHEN BELVEDERE Square opened with great fanfare in 1986, it quickly became North Baltimore's favorite marketplace.

Its food stalls overflowed with fish, fruits and vegetables. Eateries, boutiques and offices were also among 36 tenants.

It didn't last long, though. Most big-draw tenants soon deserted it, having grown sick and tired of the erratic and uncaring absentee owner, James Ward III.

Now, a private development team is about to gain control of the 100,000-square-foot shopping center. With the city and state pitching in $4 million, the new owners plan a $16 million facelift. When it's completed this fall, Belvedere Square should again be a North Baltimore gem. There will be a bigger market area, more shops, restaurants and office space.

This is particularly good news for the residential neighborhoods near the center. Modestly priced, they have been dragged down by the ghost-town-like shopping area. If a rejuvenated Belvedere Square succeeds, they could be big beneficiaries.

And why wouldn't it succeed? The recent renovation of Drumcastle Center, a few hundred yards north across the city line, has already made the York Road corridor more attractive. Some 900 Baltimore County and state employees now work in its offices, adding to the pool of potential patrons for Belvedere Square.

The Senator Theatre, which has long attracted people to the Belvedere Square area, could also help fuel redevelopment.

Belvedere Square has been a blighting eyesore for far too long. Once it's brought back to life, a concentrated drive should be launched to revitalize the rest of the York Road/Greenmount Avenue corridor. It, too, desperately needs some magical touches.

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