SNOW

Demolition bid for Radebaugh Park site expected in the spring

Baltimore County officials have announced they will move forward with plans to develop a small park in Towson’s Aigburth Manor neighborhood as early as next spring.

Plans for Radebaugh Park, named after the fourth-generation Radebaugh family florist operation on the property where the park will be built, were previously on hold for an engineering study.

After meeting with community members last week, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz confirmed through a spokeswoman this week that the county will fund the entire demolition of greenhouses and their concrete foundations and renovation of the site, though the cost of the project is not yet known.

The plot, between Aigburth Road and Burke Avenue, has three abandoned greenhouses.

The cost to remove the greenhouses from the property held up early negotiations over the county’s purchase of the land.

The Radebaughs, who said demolition could cost less than $144,000, were not responsible for the demolition under the agreement. Baltimore County officials estimated demolition could cost as much as $500,000.

A $175,000 state grant will help to cover the cost of demolition, according to county officials.

The family, which continues to use an unsold portion of the property for its business, sold the plot to the county with the provision that it would become a park.

County officials announced in June 2015 that they would work to build a park on the parcel.

The county executive announced the county would proceed with the $1.1 million acquisition of the property in November 2016 after an environmental study of the land found no problems that would prevent its purchase.

The money for the purchase came from Program Open Space, a state land preservation program funded by real estate transfer taxes.

“What we hope is that the work will be done next summer and seeded with grass before winter so we can hopefully start using it in the spring of 2019 at the latest,” said Carol Newill, a retired internist and Stoneleigh resident who is co-founder of the Green Towson Alliance, a Towson-based environmental advocacy group that has rallied for the park.

Following the purchase, the Green Towson Alliance hosted a community input meeting with Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, to consider ideas for the newly acquired county property.

Marks said his goal for the neighborhood park is to have it completed by 2018 or early 2019 as an area for families who live in the neighborhood.

“It was pretty clear to me, at the community input meeting, that residents want this to be a neighborhood park accessed by families in the immediate area,” Marks said in a Nov. 29 email. “People do not want buildings. The strong preference was for a main green square with walking trails, a small playground and features like bike racks and maybe picnic tables.”

However, the land sat unused and vacant through the summer, leading some neighbors to complain about overgrown weeds and trespassing.

In response, Baltimore County erected a fence around the property but in July, county officials said anything further would require an engineering study to determine how to tear down the greenhouses.

Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said the engineering study will now be part of the demolition and renovation of the site. A demolition contract will be bid in the spring, she added, after which plans for the park can move forward.

A firmer timeline can be announced after the County Council votes to accept a bid, Kobler said.

“The community indicated that they are interested in additional features and we will talk about all of that at an appropriate point moving forward,” Kobler said in a Nov. 28 email.

Newill said she and two volunteer professional landscape architects presented recommendations from the community input meeting and an improvement plan developed by the architects to the county executive last week.

The site includes multiple unused greenhouses which sit on concrete foundations. Without their removal, the property could not be used to the extent the community would like, Newill said.

The structures will be removed, including foundations, and the land will be graded to accommodate the functions that the community asked for at the community input meeting, including a children’s play area, bicycle rack, accessible walking trails and shade trees, Newill said.

“We want a park that people of all ages and abilities will use and I think we’re going to get it,” Newill said.

Though still in the early stages of negotiating what will fall on the community to purchase, Newill said community members will likely have to raise some money to add the above-ground features. She did not have an estimate of how much funding will be required.

When the time comes, the group will also need volunteers to invest “sweat equity” in the park by digging holes for trees and other native plants.

Green Towson Alliance is also looking for creative ways to incorporate the land’s history as a former florist shop into the design, Newill said.

Anyone interested in helping with the park is asked to contact the Green Towson Alliance on Facebook.

“We’re going to need some creative people to think about that and help us carry it out,” Newill said. “It’s going to be fun.”

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