Preserving downtown Pikesville's Main Street

Refurbished store facades part of $5 million project

May 05, 2006|By LISA GOLDBERG | LISA GOLDBERG,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A Baltimore developer is sprucing up several of the stores that front Reisterstown Road in downtown Pikesville as part of a $5 million project that will also include the first Maryland location for a Florida-based restaurant chain.

The Courtyard @ Centre Court project, by Vanguard Equities, is the latest for an area that county officials say has attracted more than $57 million in private investment in the past five years - improvements that they and an area business representative said are helping to revitalize the aging community south of Interstate 695.

For a long time, "people didn't go to urban areas," said Sherrie Becker, the executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce.

"Now we're seeing the decline of the malls, which is driving people back to places where they can dine or stroll," she said.

The Vanguard project is designed to maintain the Main Street feel along Reisterstown Road - freshening up the storefronts in the 1400 block while also providing access for foot traffic to shopping areas behind it, county officials said. The county is providing a $1.5 million loan for the project.

"They certainly could have torn down the buildings," said Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who will take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site today. "They didn't do that. They kept the pedestrian walk-ability. They tied it into the renaissance that already occurred so it complements and doesn't conflict."

The design leaves the storefronts, some of which are vacant, mostly intact, although a section of the block has been torn down to create a walkway from Reisterstown Road to a back parking lot and to the adjacent Centre Court complex, which was also developed by Vanguard.

An addition to the south end of the shops will house a Mattress Discounters, the developers and county officials said, and a free-standing building under construction behind the strip will become the first Maryland location for the Bradenton, Fla.-based restaurant chain First Watch, which bills itself as a "Breakfast-Brunch-Lunch eatery."

Developers Len Weinberg and Brad Glaser of Vanguard said Starbucks will occupy one of the storefronts when construction is complete, and that they are working to fill the other vacancies. The current tenants, which include longtime Pikesville delicatessen Edmart, are staying.

Marty Lev, who has run Edmart out of the same storefront for nearly 48 years, said his traditional delicatessen has always had a steady customer base. But, he said, he expects the changes will bring more people his way.

"We look forward to seeing new business," he said. "The restaurant is going to bring a lot of people."

Weinberg and Glaser said they hope to have construction on Courtyard @ Centre Court completed this fall. Their nearby Centre Court projects have included a rebuilt Giant Food store, an M&T Bank branch and two buildings that house 24,000 square feet of retail space.

Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents Pikesville, said projects like the Centre Court complex and other redevelopment efforts have spurred other developers to consider or plan projects for the area.

Recent projects in downtown Pikesville include: construction of a new Eastern Savings Bank and a new headquarters for Prologue, a mental health services nonprofit organization; the opening of the Pikes Diner in the former Pikes Theater; and the redevelopment of office and retail space. County officials are also about to open a new public safety complex and are working on an expansion of the Pikesville library and senior center.

"The spinoff effect is working well," Kamenetz said. "A developer sees activity and says, `Maybe I should be there.' Now, it's an easier sell for me to push them to move in the area."

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