Bel Air town officials hope all five suites of the new Armory Marketplace will be built out and available for lease by the end of August.
Three of the five are finished and two of those are already leased, according to Trish Heidenreich, director of economic development for the Town of Bel Air.
At a town meeting Feb. 6, the commissioners voted, 4-0, to approve a resolution setting the rates for the armory, designed to be an incubator for start-up businesses that ideally will relocate elsewhere in the Town of Bel Air once they have outgrown their starter space.
Commissioner Brendan Hopkins was not at the meeting Feb. 6.
In addition to the Harford Artists Gallery, which relocated to the armory to be its anchor, Love Evolution recently signed a lease for one of the finished suites.
A new yoga business, Heidenreich said the new owners will pay $440 a month in rent, plus utilities, for the 880-square-foot space.
The artists gallery occupies 1,485 square feet, but it does not pay rent. The gallery moved there at the request of the town to also satisfy the requirement that an Arts and Entertainment District include an art gallery in town, Heidenreich said.
It also serves as the backup visitors center on weekends, she added.
Were the space to become available, the rent would be about $742 a month, plus utilities.
Rent for the suites is about 50 percent of the industry standard – about $6 a square foot for the armory suites.
"It's not a big bargain, but it's something definitely advantageous to a new seed business," Heidenreich said.
The third finished suite is about 671 square feet and rent is $335 a month, plus utilities.
The other two suites are being used as storage, but Heidenreich said she hopes construction can begin this summer, once a new budget goes into effect.
Those suits are about 700 square feet, but that could change depending how they're built out, she said.
Also part of the suite buildout is updated design plans for landscaping, including regrading the parking lot with permeable pavers to make it more attractive and to help with stormwater management, Heidenreich said.
"Once they're done with construction, then it will be a case of building maintenance, tweaking the template for management of the facility," she said. "It's all new, so I'm sure as we go along we'll look for best practices. There could be minor changes."
The goal is to have the lease payments cover operation of the marketplace, so the $6 per square foot rate could change, Heidenreich said.
Not just anyone can open a business in the marketplace, she said.
It's an extensive process in which the business owner has to present a business plan that shows how it will make the rent and how it will grow and be a sustainable business.
"A lot of businesses fail because they can't meet debt obligations," she said. "They have to prove their worth to us spending time on and investing in."
Also at the Feb. 6 meeting, the town commissioners voted to award a contact for $34,936 for root control in town.
The town will treat neighborhoods prone to tree root intrusion, including the Homestead Village community. About 19,000 feet of 8-inch line will be treated and 2,690 feet of 10-inch line will be treated.
The town had budgeted $40,000 for the project.
Commissioners also agreed to spend up to $12,000 with American Design Associates for new furniture for the finance department, which is being renovated.
The furniture will be more modern workstations and will include a rotary file, which stores the same number of files as are typically stored in several regular filing cabinets, according to Finance Director Lisa Moody.
Bel Air will host Girls Night Out Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. It's a night of shopping, discounts, food and drink specials.