The Radebaugh family, owners of a 92-year-old floral company based in Towson, have agreed to sell a portion of their property off Aigburth Avenue to Baltimore County for use as a new park.
The county has agreed to purchase 2.36 acres of land at 50 Aigburth Avenue for $1.1 million, according to spokeswoman Ellen Kobler. The Radebaughs signed the agreement Sept. 15, Kobler said. According to state real estate documents, the property is owned by CM and JL Radebaugh Company LLLP.
The money for the purchase will come from Program Open Space, a state land preservation program funded by the real estate transfer tax. Elected officials and advocates said the proposed park, tentatively called Radebaugh Park, will bring open space to the densely populated area. The park would be in the Aigburth Manor neighborhood, which is currently without a park.
"This is a really big deal," said state Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat from Cockeysville. "It will provide the people in East Towson with a really cool park within walking distance."
Two state legislators are filing bond bills to help Baltimore County defray the cost of purchasing a Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses satellite property that many Towson residents and community leaders say they want to see turned into a county park or recreational open space.
The Radebaugh family will continue to use a portion of the Aigburth Avenue property for its business, including a design center and warehouse, according to co-owner Kaitlin Radebaugh. The business, including the flower shop on Burke Avenue, will remain open.
The acquisition has been discussed for about 20 months, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks said. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the county's intention to buy the parcel in June 2015.
A sticking point in negotiations was the estimated cost to remove existing green houses from the property. Under the agreement, the Radebaughs are not responsible for the cost of demolition, Kobler said.
An estimate for the demolition cost isn't available, Kobler said. A state grant for $175,000 will help pay for the demolition.
That $175,000 is separate from the $1.1 million in Program Open Space funding being used for the project.
The business stopped using the green houses in the spring of 2015, Radebaugh said, adding that structures are from the 1940s or 1950s. The old buildings aren't as energy efficient as modern greenhouses, so the family decided to sell the land and add growing space to a company farm located in Freeland, Pa., near the state line.
That the space, which has been used for decades to grow plants, should become a park is fitting, Radebaugh said. The family was approached by several developers interested in purchasing the parcel, but those offers didn't feel right, Radebaugh said.
As the dramatic transformation of downtown Towson picks up momentum, the urgency grows to make sure whatever open space exists in and around the county seat is preserved — and to ensure that more is added. Enter the Green Towson Alliance, an advocacy group that brings together activists from 10 Towson-area community groups so far.
"It's always been a growing space," Radebaugh said. "A park was the ideal situation for us."
The county's intention is to use the land as "passive open space," Kobler said.
Beth Miller, a member of the Green Towson Alliance, said she was hoping for such a use, which precludes the construction of sports fields.
Members of the alliance, a local nonprofit group dedicated to adding and preserving green space, have been vocal in their support for the county's purchase of the parcel; in December, when the purchase was stalled, the group circulated a petition that collected 1,000 signatures in support for the purchase.
Towson lacks open space, Miller said, adding that the proposed park will provide the environmental benefits of green space to the community. She envisions a park with rain gardens at the base of a slope on the property, which would catch stormwater runoff, which pollutes local streams and eventually larger bodies of water, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
The agreement is pending an environmental assessment of the property, which Kobler said is routine. The assessment should be completed by mid-October, she added. The county council then would need to vote to approve the purchase. Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said he hopes to see that happen in October.
Once the council approves the purchase, Marks expects the county department of recreation and parks to hold a community input meeting to discuss ideas for the new park.
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a statement about Del. Steve Lafferty and Sen. Jim Brochin securing a state grant to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.