Project could bring new restaurant and retail business to Arbutus

Developer Steve Whalen stands near the stairs that lead to nowhere on his property on Sulphur Spring Road. Whalen plans to build two commercial buildings on the site as part of his Arbutus Station project.
Developer Steve Whalen stands near the stairs that lead to nowhere on his property on Sulphur Spring Road. Whalen plans to build two commercial buildings on the site as part of his Arbutus Station project. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

One of the main gateways into Arbutus is expected to undergo a major change if a project by Catonsville developer Steve Whalen gets underway.

The project, Arbutus Station, will bring two commercial buildings near the intersection of Sulphur Spring Road and Waelchli Avenue.


One building will be a 20,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial building with office space on the top floor and retail space on the first floor.

The other building will be an approximately 7,000-square-foot restaurant.

The project is expected to cost between $4.5 and $5 million, Whalen said.

"I can't remember how long it's been since anyone has invested that much into the Arbutus community," Whalen said.

Because there is a tenant on the property whose lease isn't up until December 2014, construction wouldn't begin until April 1, 2015, Whalen said.

Whalen said in an email that the community input meeting on the project had been held in December and the hearing officer's hearing for development plan approval could be scheduled within 90 days.

After that approval, it would take another three or four months to complete final construction plans and have the county issue building permits, according to his email.

The project is expected to take about nine months to complete, which means it wouldn't be finished until late 2015 or early 2016, he said.

Terry Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association, said the local business group supports the project.

"We're a business association and we believe a rising tide lifts all boats. The addition of business to Arbutus is always welcome, " Nolan said.

"We believe this is an entry way to Arbutus and if it becomes an island of business, instead of an area of broken down woods, that's a good thing for Arbutus," Nolan said.

Some residents of the neighborhood next to the site have voiced concerns about the project.

Fred and Donna Adcock, who live in the neighborhood, said that while they respect Whalen's right to build, they're concerned about how the site will affect their neighborhood.

The couple, who purchased their home on Arbutus Avenue in 1992, will be able to see the development from their front steps.


"When we bought into this neighborhood, it was a quiet street. We're very concerned about this road getting noisy from the traffic it could bring," Fred Adcock said.

The couple said they're worried about how the new development will affect their property value.

They don't want to see an entrance to the restaurant and retail center so close to their home.

Whalen anticipates filling the restaurant space with a casual dining establishment.

"I want to do something that will be right for Arbutus," Whalen said. "I recognize we're not doing a Ruth Chris steakhouse there."

Whalen said once he knows his time frame, he'd like to speak with Texas Roadhouse, a casual dining steakhouse chain.

"They provide a good value. You can walk into a Texas Roadhouse and get a 6-ounce filet, salad, bread and butter and a soft drink for 20 bucks plus tip," Whalen said.

"And I think that's where we'd want to be," he said. "There are a whole host of people that are in that area of casual dining that would qualify."

"I don't really want to do the pizza joint, McDonald's or Burger King. That really has no appeal," Whalen said of fast food options, many of which are already in the area.

Whalen expects the first floor of the 20,000-square-foot commercial building to house businesses such as Subway or Chipotle, a dry cleaner or an insurance agency.

Residents can expect the exterior of the buildings to be upscale, Whalen said.

"We want to upgrade it. We want to upscale it. We want to do brick and stone on the exterior and some really nice lighting and signage," Whalen said.

"Making this the most upscale building in Arbutus is important to us," he said. "Having quality is important to us."

Whalen, who lives close to the area, said he spends time in Arbutus and would like to invest in the area that's near his home.

"I hope that it ends up being attractive to the folks in Arbutus," Whalen said.

He'd like to attract commuters who use the nearby MARC train, he said.

He'd also like to bring in students from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) campus, that is also nearby. That is a market that has been neglected, he said.

"I hope it brings some level of vibrancy and some level of activity that's not there now," Whalen said.

The project is in the process of seeking county approval.

Whalen is also trying to get the area added to the Arbutus business revitalization district, which could help draw businesses to the commercial space.

Deborah Sebour, an Arbutus real estate broker, said she thinks the new development will attract more people to the area.

"We could really use people to come in and invest in the area," Sebour said.