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Aberdeen leaders hope proposed mixed-use development is the ‘spark’ to kick off downtown revitalization

A mixed use development featuring 24 apartments above 4,000-square-feet of commercial and retail establishments for Franklin Street in downtown Aberdeen, shown in this rendering.
A mixed use development featuring 24 apartments above 4,000-square-feet of commercial and retail establishments for Franklin Street in downtown Aberdeen, shown in this rendering. (Courtesy City of Aberdeen)

A proposal to build 24 apartments above commercial and retail space along Franklin Street will move to a public hearing after Aberdeen city council members unanimously introduced an ordinance Monday that would enable the construction, in the hopes of sparking renewed interest in the redevelopment downtown.

The council voted to introduce the ordinance 4-0 with no abstentions. All present members of the council — Sandra Landbeck was absent — were enthused to sponsor it. Mayor Patrick McGrady said that Landbeck told him she wished to sponsor the bill as well. Unfortunately, city clerk Monica Correll told them they could not all leave their mark on the ordinance. Councilmen Jason Kolligs and Tim Lindecamp ended up as the bills sponsors because they spoke first in the formal process.

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The apartments would be built along 11, 15 and 19 Franklin Street, across the street from the Aberdeen Festival Park and City Hall.

The three-story units would be for mixed use, with commercial and retail proposed for the ground floor and residential planned for the upper levels. The apartment units would have one, two or three bedrooms, and the lower floor would supply at least 4,000-square-feet of retail and commercial space.

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Steven B. Horne, who is purchasing and developing the property, said he wanted to invest in the community because he has lived in Aberdeen for a long time.

A local business owner, Horne mused he might want to move his headquarters of his company, Horne Concrete Construction, to one of the commercial spaces below the apartments, which he hopes to complete in less than three years.

According to the contract of sale, the city would sell Horne the property for $1, but Horne estimates the construction to cost $3 million if approved by the council. Additionally, the contract calls for the developer to make some improvements to Festival Park across the street.

“If you are going to be part of the community, you need to give back and be part of the progress,” Horne said. “Eventually, somebody has to step forward and make the first move.”

And Horne’s move was “exactly what the city had in mind when [it] land-banked this property,” McGrady said.

Aberdeen put out notices in June of last year that the property was for sale or open for a long-term lease. It was actively marketed and had its deadline extended twice, City Manager Randy Robertson said, but no developer bit until Horne submitted a proposal Oct. 4.

Horne said that times are changing for Aberdeen. Once, canning was its main industry and small businesses proliferated through the city. But today, people commuting through or living in the city are of a different bent — more tech-savvy and higher-skilled workers drawn by Aberdeen Proving Ground and the millions of dollars it represents.

To that end, he thought updated living spaces, like those seen in Baltimore or the District of Columbia, could be a “spark" to spur development around the park.

A market study Horne commissioned showed that the city was ready for apartments of that type. The units will be rented at market-rate, not subsidized or Section 8 housing, he said.

It also comes with the added bonus of returning the property to use, generating tax revenue for the city, Horne’s attorney Joseph Snee said at the hearing.

The next step for the proposed complex will be a public hearing scheduled for March 23.

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