New neighborhood shopping center planned to revitalize Belair-Edison

Local private investors to spend up to $10 million

January 22, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

City officials announced yesterday a new Northeast Baltimore shopping center, Belair Edison Crossing, that they hope will be the next neighborhood hub to be anchored by an upgraded supermarket.

In keeping with his emphasis on neighborhood supermarkets as the engine of economic development, Mayor Martin O'Malley said private investors will spend up to $10 million to renovate the run-down 16-acre site and improve the retail space around an existing Food Depot.

The renaming of the shopping center is the first step in the commercial deal, in which a local partnership will replace an out-of-town landlord who owned the property at 2401 Belair Road. O'Malley said he has high hopes that private business and the community will benefit from each other and turn around the property.

"This is a clear example of neighborhoods first," O'Malley said. "We tell businesses, you can make a difference and a dollar in communities."

Officials from the partnership, comprising the Baltimore firms B. Green & Co. Inc. and Black Oak Associates, were on hand yesterday as O'Malley, city officials and community members celebrated the planned revitalization project in the middle-class community near Clifton Park.

B. Green & Co. is the owner of the Food Depot on the site.

Dixon Harvey, president of Black Oak Associates , said he and his partner, Benjamin L. Green, envision a "a first-class community shopping center with a handful of different retailers for clothes, home improvement and a sit-down restaurant."

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said the city's economic development agency had stepped in to help complete the $4.7 property purchase with a $500,000 loan. He characterized it as an "impact project," with the capacity to generate up to 200 jobs.

Green said his company will immediately begin building a 35,000-square-foot wholesale food service that will cater to delis, carryouts and pizzerias. The remaining 100,000 square feet of vacant commercial space will be leased over the next year or two, he said.

Fast-food and banking operations could be tucked into the corners, he added.

"This [project] makes sense because that section of the city is underserved," Green said, "with mouths to feed, bodies to clothe. Hopefully we can help build a better community and make it vibrant."

Community leader Barbara Aylesworth, executive director of Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc., said the prospect of a shopping center has been long awaited.

"This is our highest hope, knowing we have buying power and consumer need," she said.

In the past few years, the northeast area was chosen for two city programs, known as Healthy Neighborhoods and Main Street, aimed at creating a more stable residential base and strengthening business districts.

The shopping mall will be brightened with awnings and new signs, among other touches. Donald R. Kann is the architect for the rehabilitation project.

"We'll take advantage of the good [street] visibility with a fresh character all the way around," Kann said.

A supermarket intended to bring similar benefits to the Waverly neighborhood is due to break ground in a few months.

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