Redevelopment planned for Martin Plaza

$25 million private project to raze Balto. Co. center's anchor store, build Target

July 12, 2004|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

In the midst of major new residential developments on Baltimore County's east side, the Martin Plaza shopping center is to undergo a $25 million private redevelopment, Baltimore County officials are to announce today.

Plans call for a Target retail store, and smaller shops will be included in the future.

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said the Target development is a major sign of confidence in east side revitalization from the business community. The only economic incentive the county put forward for the developers was accelerating some previously planned work on a storm drain, he said.

"Private enterprise is funding the renaissance, and you've got to have that," Smith said.

The store on Martin Boulevard at Middle River Road will be about a mile from the new WaterView residential development and commercial cluster and near other housing developments planned for the waterfront.

`Market potential'

"By moving to that location, Target representatives are looking at the market potential, the fresh demographics of the region," said Fronda Cohen, spokeswoman for the county Department of Economic Development.

"They also see that when the White Marsh Boulevard extension comes through to Eastern Boulevard, the area will be open to attract additional shoppers," she said.

Paula Greear, a corporate spokeswoman for Target in Minneapolis, concurred. She said company planners found eastern Baltimore County "very exciting ... with great potential for growth."

The center could be completed by next summer, Cohen said.

Martin Plaza is owned by Martin Financial Associates, a Maryland group. Construction of the plaza started in the early 1960s, said Beverly Dobrochowski, vice president of Maryland Financial Investors, a management group in Timonium.

Success and setbacks

Built near the older communities of Aero Acres and Victory Villa and their streets named for aircraft parts, the Martin Plaza enjoyed initial success.

But in the following decades, the center struggled as the community around it suffered tens of thousands of job losses, residents moved to outlying suburbs and housing speculators took advantage of declining rental properties.

Dobrochowski said the plaza suffered a major setback in 2002 when the Ames discount chain, which had declared bankruptcy two years earlier, closed its Martin Plaza anchor store. Shortly after, she said, a SuperFresh supermarket also closed.

"Our plans call for demolishing the old Ames building and about three stores adjacent to it," Dobrochowski said. At 238,000 square feet, the Target building will be nearly double the size of the Ames store.

She said that local reaction to the new plan has been positive.

"We have met with the community several times and the response has been favorable," she said. "They want a new life, they want their shopping center back. They don't want a car lot."

Separate park project

The Department of Recreation and Parks is also seeking community input on a plan to redevelop a parcel of unused Aero Acres parkland on the north side of Fuselage Avenue, across from a ball field.

That site will be landscaped, and a boardwalk will be built, county officials have said.

Sun staff writer Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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