Randallstown growing, improving

Change: Involved residents, strong neighborhoods and new opportunities reflect the active community.

Communities

September 26, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Randallstown was a rural community for more than 100 years. In the past century, however, growth and change have been constant.

The small dirt road where the Randall brothers once operated a tavern is now Liberty Road, a major thoroughfare crammed with strip malls.

And the community's residents want more change still: They want the Liberty Road corridor to provide recreational opportunities and upscale restaurants that reflect their strong neighborhoods.

"This is a very organized, very active community," said Barry L. Schleifer, executive director of the Liberty-Randallstown Coalition. "The demand for our area is tremendous."

Home to one of Maryland's largest enclaves of the black middle class, Randallstown has Baltimore County's highest median income: $58,000, compared with $53,000 for the county overall, said County Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Democrat who represents the area.

The black migration to Randallstown began in the 1970s, according to a community history by the Baltimore County Public Library, with blacks replacing Jews as the dominant ethnic group over the past decade in an area known for its diversity.

Last year, residents enlisted architects, planners and landscapers to help them develop a plan capitalizing on the community's strengths and potential while addressing weaknesses.

A major issue identified was that Randallstown is often associated with the strip malls lining Liberty Road. Residents said they want more recreational opportunities and something to bring a sense of identity to Randallstown. The county is trying to buy land for a community center.

The community is also working to attract upscale restaurants. Though Liberty Road does have some notable ethnic restaurants, it features mainly fast-food eateries that residents say don't reflect their taste.

Randallstown is growing rapidly. Baltimore's Ravens are set to open a corporate headquarters and training center nearby.

Last year, the county opened its first new high school in 25 years, New Town High, to ease crowding at Randallstown and Owings Mills high schools. Last month, it opened a new police substation. This month, it broke ground on a middle school.

Randallstown's public schools are working to raise student performance through initiatives ranging from a magnet program at Deer Park Middle to new "smaller learning communities" at Randallstown High.

The community has embraced Randallstown High since a shooting May 7 in the parking lot that injured four students leaving a charity basketball game.

Parents have turned out at community meetings and pledged more involvement. There were weekly prayer gatherings at the school, culminating Aug. 29 with a march and rally attended by hundreds.

"The community has turned it into something positive," Oliver said.

"The incident really was extremely upsetting to everyone, but everybody knew that it wasn't a reflection of the community," Schleifer said. "It's a very safe, peaceful community."

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