Many redevelopment possibilities emerging for 'Old Edgewood' area

Consultants, Harford County government staff and community members working to craft a redevelopment plan for Edgewood have narrowed down their focus based upon public input received earlier this summer.

The Edgewood Small Area Study, being funded through a federal grant because the of area’s proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, has zeroed in on the area of the community often referred to as “Old Edgewood,” that sprouted up during the World War II era and immediately afterward.

Four key elements of the plan were on display on easel boards during a second community workshop held Wednesday evening at Edgewood Middle School. Organizers estimated approximately 70 people attended.

“We had a good turnout; some people who came back in July and some new faces,” said Jennifer Reitz, who is leading the study for the consulting firm Thomas Comitta Associates, of West Chester, Pa. Her firm is working with the engineering and land planning firm Frederick Ward Associates of Bel Air and with the Harford County Office of Economic Development.

Reitz said the work group is still on track to release a final draft plan on Oct. 18.

She and Jake Adler, a business development associate with the Office of Economic Development, who is a member of the team, said there were a number of positive comments, suggestions and questions.

The study’s proposed vision statement was posted on one of the walls of the meeting room: “Edgewood is a respected and desirable community rooted in its safe, walkable neighborhoods; diverse opportunities for recreation, education and entertainment; and a unique partnership with the world class biological, chemical and medical research at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

As with the earlier workshop in July, visitors Wednesday were asked to place Post-it notes with their comments on the four easels holding proposed plan elements in narrative form and aerial map references to them. Many did so enthusiastically, while asking questions of study team members who stood by each easel.

The core area of the redevelopment plan is bounded by Hanson Road on the north, Route 24 on the west, Route 715 — or Edgewood Road — on the east and the Amtrak rail line on the south, which also parallels the security fence for APG’s Edgewood Area.

Within those bounds are newer housing developments, including one under construction, but also aging multifamily buildings that have undergone periodic renovations since they were built in the 1940s and 1950s.

The area is home to the Edgewood MARC train station, one of two commuter stations in Harford County, a shopping center developed in the 1950s and the Edgewood Library. There are a number of commercial properties, some in better shape than others, convenience stores, auto repair shops and the like. Nearby is the Edgewood High and Middle School and Deerfield Elementary School complex on Willoughby Beach Road.

One proposed element, entitled “Making Connections,” listed potential improvements as connecting Nuttal Avenue from its dead end west of the train station to Route 24, which would improve traffic flow for people using the train station who drive into Edgewood. Other suggestions included construction of a “continuous sidewalk network,” development of bikeways and connecting Cedar Lane by Edgewood Elementary School with Willoughby Beach Road, while also designating more walking trails in that area. Another possibility mentioned is a community shuttle.

Under “Building for the Future,” suggestions included efforts to promote more mixed development, both housing and commercial/office, the latter to “capture the APG traffic” that typically goes through the community on each working day.

Mixed-use residential development is also viewed as a means to attract more Edgewood APG employees to live in the community where they work, but the element also recognizes the desire of many residents for housing that would allow them to “age in place,” something Edgewood does not have. Places for community gardens was another suggestion.

Under “Green and Growing,” there were suggestions for more courtyard or pocket parks, as well as more “opportunities for recreation and community gatherings in close proximity to neighborhoods.”

This element also proposed potential upgrades to existing recreation facilities, as well as development of a new county park at the Lee Court apartment complex. Another intriguing proposal is for “an informal outdoor gathering area near the train station.”

The final element, “Positive Impressions,” asked visitors to provide suggestions for opportunities “to present Edgewood pride,” such as more community welcoming signs and more events for the community and visitors, public art projects — such as a mural on the train station overpass, maybe even pop-up beer gardens.

Reitz said the information presented Wednesday, along with all the comments received, verbally or through the Post-its, will be considered in crafting the final draft of the redevelopment plan.

County officials say the plan would be a first step to a general redevelopment in Edgewood, one that brings together private sector investment and some available government grant programs.

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