Perhaps no area of Harford County is more of a study in contradictions than Edgewood.
The community first developed to support the neighboring Army Chemical Center at what was formerly Edgewood Arsenal and today known as Aberdeen Proving Ground South.
Much of the early growth occurred in the World War II period and the decade and a half immediately afterward along Edgewood Road south of Hanson Road, the area closest to the arsenal.
In the late 1960s, the former sand and gravel pits along Route 40 were developed for Edgewater Village and a new Route 24 was built to the Army post, which effectively bypassed the developed area to the east. The 1970s saw more development on the west side of Edgewood Road, some of it subsidized housing, as well as commercial retail and fast food on Route 40. In the late 1980s, the Woodbridge Center residential community was built, followed by more commercial development on a former wooded track along Route 40, and large warehouses were built along Hanson. The late ’ 90s and 2000s saw a boom in housing construction along Willoughby Beach Road.
Today, approximately 30,000 people live in what is generally considered Edgewood, which isn’t a town or even a small city but arguably the most density populated area of Harford County. The community doesn’t have any government per se and, despite its population, historically has been under-represented at both the county and state levels. A significant portion of its housing stock is aging, as are commercial buildings along both Edgewood Road and Route 40. There are perceptions that parts of the community are not safe or desirable to live in, fueled in part by a spike in violent and gang related crime in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But let’s also not overlook the fact that all communities are prone to changing over time, especially as they age. Next to Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, all incorporated towns or city, Edgewood is one of the oldest developed areas of Harford County. The community also hasn’t lacked, nor does it lack now, for government resources, such as a police station, library, community center, a waterfront park and a high, middle and elementary school complex second to none the county.
A redevelopment plan, called the Edgewood Small Area Study, for the oldest portion of the community was unveiled during a community meeting at Edgewood High School late last week. The plan focuses on the older core of the community and makes some realistic proposals for a better road network, more recreation areas and walking trails and mixed-use housing on the former Washington Park tract, as well as potential commercial or office development along Route 24 approaching APG South.
If all or even some of those proposals are realized, they could be a catalyst for redevelopment in other parts of the community, as well. Can they happen? Private investment and government and community support will be necessary, the authors of the plan said in presenting it.
Certainly the foundation is there, and now there’s a new blueprint for tapping some potentially hidden assets. Who will take the next step – and when – remains to be seen. If there’s one constant we’ve witnessed with Edgewood’s community and economic rebirth over the years, getting started has been the biggest hurdle.