Team's plan for makeover unveiled

Town center, parks among ideas for Randallstown

Smith pledges $4 million

October 28, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

A team of urban designers unveiled a plan yesterday for a town center in Randallstown that they say would integrate the community's strong residential neighborhoods, natural features and history while mitigating the heavy traffic, commercial development and lack of identity that have afflicted the area for years.

The product of work by the second Urban Design Assistance Team to visit Baltimore County in two years, the plan calls for the gradual transformation of aging shopping centers and apartment complexes around the intersection of Liberty and Old Court roads into an area combining high-density residential property, new commercial development, offices and a number of civic spaces, such as a community college branch, a YMCA and a theater.

The 11-member group, which includes architects, urban planners and landscape designers from around the country, spent a week meeting with residents and touring the community. Members said they were impressed with the quality of residential neighborhoods and with the love residents have for their homes and communities. But they also said they saw that the public perception of Randallstown, fixed on the monotonous commercial strip of Liberty Road, doesn't begin to reflect that civic pride.

"There are all these wonderful neighborhoods north and south of Liberty Road and no way to connect them," said Christine L. Hilt, a landscape architect from Cary, N.C.

The team's plan did not carry a price tag. But County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who has identified community revitalization as one of his top priorities, announced this week that he will make $4 million available to begin implementing some of its ideas.

The group's suggestions include:

Turning the old Randallstown community building north of the Fieldstone historic district into a museum.

Running a wide, granite median down the center of Liberty Road to prevent left turns into businesses mid-block.

Developing a trail alongside the Gwynns Falls tributaries that run through the area.

Creating a monument to the community of freed slaves who lived near Randallstown.

Adding four parks so that all houses would be within a 10-minute walk from one.

"There are some major changes you're seeing here," UDAT team leader Fernando Magallanes, a landscape architect from North Carolina, told the 100 people who turned out for the group's presentation yesterday at the Randallstown library. "Obviously, these are not set in stone."

Reactions from the crowd were generally positive.

"The next step is for this community to feel empowered to make this happen," said Ella White Campbell, president of the Stevens Wood Neighborhood Association.

The plan did spark some anxiety - some residents said they worried that they would lose their homes or churches or that the plans would make Liberty Road more dangerous for pedestrians and motorists. The team members insisted they would not.

And while some audience members said they were skeptical that they would see the plans become reality anytime soon, the pervasive feeling was that the community needs to do something.

"I had in-laws visiting this weekend from Peoria, Illinois, and I was out-and-out embarrassed that I had to take them to Owings Mills to eat and to the harbor to entertain them," said Marcus A. Costley, 42, a lifelong Randallstown resident. "Please, just make a better community."

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