Open for business in Arbutus

An office/retail building at 5200 Leeds Avenue is among five commercial buildings up for sale near the main retail area of Arbutus. (Staff photo by Lauren Loricchio / March 5, 2014)

Five commercial properties are up for sale near the main street of Arbutus, including longtime businesses Leon's Triple L Restaurant and Lounge, and Center Court Tavern, presenting an opportunity for those looking to start a business in the area.

"It's a high volume of real estate for sale. Generally, the businesses here have been around forever. We are seeing a large turnover," said Arbutus real estate broker Deborah Sebour.

"You've seen these businesses around for 30 to 40 years. Now they're selling, which gives new businesses an opportunity to come in," Sebour said.

Both Leon's and Center Court are listed for sale with a liquor license, making them a good opportunity for budding restaurateurs.

"We could really use some people to come in and invest in the area," Sebour said.

"People aren't taking advantage of the commercial revitalization program like they should be," she said, referring to Baltimore County's commercial revitalization program, which all five of the properties listed for sale qualify for.

The program offers four different resources for those looking to purchase property in one of the 16 commercial revitalization districts in Baltimore County. The Arbutus area is one of the 16.

One program, Architect-On-Call, offers up to 10 free hours of professional architectural design services to businesses for improving the exteriors of their buildings, according to the county government's website, BaltimoreCountyMD.gov.

An architect prepares a digital rendering of the building, accompanied by design recommendations and a rough cost estimate. Those services are free, if the improvements are completed within six months, according to the website.

A Building Improvement Loan (BILP) is another service offered through the county program. The $30,000 interest-free loan can be used to make exterior improvements to a commercial building, such as awnings, landscaping and signage. It too is available to those looking to improve property within the commercial revitalization area in Arbutus.

Minor improvements to equipment and the building's interior may also be financed through the program.

A five-year real property tax credit is offered for large projects, if the physical improvements increase the assessed property value by $100,000 or more. A 10-year credit is offered if improvement costs exceed more than $10 million, the website says.

A fourth program offers a $10,000 grant, which is awarded annually to business associations for projects that benefit the Commercial Revitalization District overall. Holiday lighting, welcome signs, website development, street trees, security cameras, and farmers markets are listed as examples.

"We could really use some people to come down and invest in Arbutus," Sebour said.

"It's a great family town, and we need more family business," Sebour said.

Sebour pointed to Sorrento of Arbutus, a longtime pizza restaurant located on East Drive, the town's main street. When people leave the restaurant, there aren't any other businesses where families can go to shop, Sebour said.

"We could use a walkable, shop-able main street. We have a lot of businesses, but they're not really family-friendly," Sebour said.

Sebour said she's hoping the businesses that invest in Arbutus will promote more of a main street atmosphere in the commercial district.

"You're going to see some good changes in Arbutus in the next year or two," she said.