A transformation is under way in Paradise that will integrate the community just east of the Baltimore Beltway with the rest of Catonsville, residents say.
The Baltimore County Council is requesting $3 million from the Maryland Department of Transportation to improve the 6400 block of Frederick Road.
The improvements will include sidewalks, landscaping, tree trimming, street lighting and furniture to give Paradise a more cohesive appearance.
The removal of the raised tree planters that block businesses from the street is also among the requests.
Paradise residents who have spent time trimming trees, planting flowers and picking up trash on the commercial corridor of Frederick Road are excited to see the neighborhood turn a new leaf.
Maureen Sweeney Smith, 59, who lives nearby, said when things appeared to be heading south in the business district of Paradise along Frederick Road, she had to do something about it.
She and another Paradise resident, Scott Schools, mustered a small group of volunteers last spring and began cleaning up the community.
"Paradise has always been smaller. It doesn't have quite as much to offer, so when a couple of stores go out of business, it becomes more noticeable," Schools said.
Schools started a Facebook page called "Love Living in Paradise" to encourage involvement in the community.
Sweeney Smith and Schools both said development in Paradise has been encouraging, and they hope both sides of Frederick Road will turn the area into a hipper, trendier place.
"We'd like to see it become a mini-Hampden," Schools said, referring to the artsy community in north Baltimore.
Developer Gilbert Moscatelli of Constellation Management has purchased a strip of storefronts along the south side of Frederick Road between 6417 and 6433 Frederick Road, and plans to update the facade and interior of the buildings, he said.
The goal is to give a "Georgetown" look to their exterior, Moscatelli said.
Another developer, Sam Pleeter, of Samlor Construction Co., is in the process of purchasing a group of storefronts located at 6400 Frederick Road from the Mohler family.
Some of the storefronts of the strip of businesses along the north side of Frederick Road are currently unoccupied, which Pleeter would like to change.
"We would like to get the building 100 percent occupied and are looking to give it a face-lift," Pleeter said.
Schools and Sweeney Smith say they welcome the new development, which will help property values increase.
"Being a property owner, I'd like to see all the storefronts [on Frederick Road] filled," Schools said. "It's really nice to see the merchants and residents getting their act together."
Residents and merchants are also looking forward to the completion of a $14 million bridge project above Interstate 695 that will connect Paradise with the rest of Catonsville.
A 5-foot sidewalk on the westbound side of the bridge is being installed and an 8-foot shared use path, which will provide enough space for pedestrians and bicyclists, to , will be paved on the eastbound side, according to an email from Stolicny.
"It's symbolic in a way. Now you will have Paradise integrated into Catonsville," said Jimmy Laughlin, president of the Paradise Community Association.