As Aberdeen city officials have wrestled with what their hometown should and could be like in the future, there are some signs of life out there.
Within the past two weeks, Harford County government completed its promised bus shelter near the Amtrak/MARC train station. The Harford Transit LINK stop serves some 6,000 riders monthly, making it the system’s busiest.
Coupled with recent upgrades to the station itself, the parking area east of the tracks and the resurfacing of APG Road, these are real necessary improvements for that much discussed but as yet unfulfilled transit hub with which city officials hope to spur redevelopment of what Mayor Patrick McGrady has called the “downtown node.”
Ah, and speaking of “nodes,” the really exciting news has come about the other one McGrady in particular has been enthusiastic about, the area around the Interstate 95/Route 22 interchange.
Late last month, city officials learned that Aberdeen’s first freestanding Starbucks cafe is coming to a long delayed development tract at Route 22 and Middleton Road. The 2,370 square foot building with a drive-thru won’t be opening until next spring, but when it does, we have every confidence it will be a major commercial upgrade for a blank corner.
Starbucks is synonymous with “now, today,” and it’s exactly something Aberdeen needs from an image standpoint. Beyond that, however, the plan for the cafe also signals that the developers who own that corner are finally moving forward after several stops and starts. What remains to be seen is if the city can now capitalize on the building of the Starbucks to reach a final accommodation with the commercial property owners to build the extension of Middleton Road to Beards Hill Road, which is clearly a necessary piece to keeping the area east of the interchange flourishing.
The City Council last month also saw revised plan for another stalled commercial development, the I-95 Center which is just west of the interchange and east of Long Drive. The revision goes heavy on retail, including a convenience store with gasoline and a car wash and other spaces with tenants to be determined and thus far abandons and earlier plan for a hotel. Is that the best use for the property? Let’s say it’s better than the current no use state, and as we have seen, plans can change as the market dictates.
The point is, Aberdeen does appear to be moving forward, and a city on the move is exactly what its leaders have wanted to see.