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Redevelopment plan calls for partnerships, use of vacant land in Edgewood

The "Making Connections" map from the Edgewood Small Area study unveiled Wednesday shows proposed road and sidewalk extensions, along with proposed walking trails and bikeways.
The "Making Connections" map from the Edgewood Small Area study unveiled Wednesday shows proposed road and sidewalk extensions, along with proposed walking trails and bikeways. (Courtesy of Harford County)

Revitalizing the core of what is considered “Old Edgewood” will take a partnership of government, residents and private sector investment to develop several vacant properties, a new plan unveiled to the community Wednesday proposes.

The Edgewood Small Area Plan got a key instant endorsement from the private sector, when the owner of one of the area’s largest commercial properties said he would be interested in participating.

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“There’s a lot happening here; we would certainly be interested,” Ronald Strawn, whose Sandmar Properties LLC of Potomac owns the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center, said during a meeting attended by about 130 people at Edgewood High School.

The Small Area Study was developed over the summer by the Harford County Office of Economic Development working with private consultants and after public workshops with members of the community. The study was funded by a $59,000 federal grant because of the impact of the neighboring Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, also known as APG South, on the community.

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The full study can be viewed on the Harford County county government website.

Questions about the study may be directed to Jake Adler, project coordinator in the Harford County Office of Economic Development, at 410-638-3414 or jzadler@harfordcountymd.gov.

Those involved in the study emphasized it is a “good first step,” in the words of Steven Overbay, deputy director of Economic Development. He said a committee, whose membership will be “open to all parties,” will be formed during another public session in January with a goal of implementing the plan.

“This is not over; we are just starting,” said Adler, the Office of Economic Development staff member who worked on the study and presented it Wednesday with Jennifer Reitz, the lead consulant from Thomas Comitta Associates, of West Chester, Pa.

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The independent consulting firm Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc. will present its findings from the Edgewood Small Area Study on Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 6 – 8 p.m. at Edgewood High School, 2415 Willoughby Beach Road in Edgewood.

“It’s a game plan, like what the Ravens do before they play,” Adler said, also vowing: “We are not going to give up.”

The Small Area Study is organized into four themes: Building for the Future, a plan for future land use; Green and Growing, a plan for open space and recreation; Making Connections, a plan for transportation and multimodal circulation; and Positive Impressions, a plan for building a better reputation for the Edgewood Area.

The key to the first theme, and to some extent the second and third, is the redevelopment of the Washington Park property off Cedar Lane, onetime site of a federal housing project that was razed by Harford County several years ago. A private developer’s plan to build housing on the site fell through in the wake the recession, and the property sits vacant.

Reitz said the plan includes recommendations that a mix of housing be built on the site, with a small retail component. She said some 5,000 people come into Edgewood daily to work, primarily at APG South, and this housing could be geared to those and others who work in the area.

About 30,000 people live in the general Edgewood area, according to census figures. Though the Small Area Study focused mainly on the core from Hanson Road south to APG, between Route 24 and Edgewood Road, Reitz said the wider area could benefit if Washington Park and other vacant properties are redeveloped.

Other sites include along Route 24 north of the APG boundary and at the corner of Route 24 and Trimble Road. Both could be potential retail or office sites, Reitz said, explaining that the study found Edgewood can support more retail and more offices, particularly medical offices. She also said there may be a need for more defense contractor related offices, but it would come more slowly, in small steps, if at all.

The Green and Growing theme of the plan focuses on developing active or passive open space that exits between Edgewood Elementary and Washington Court, in the Lee Court and Harford Commons area south of Trimble Road and also along Route 24 south of Trimble.

All of those proposals tie in closely with several street extension proposals, which Reitz said will make the community less isolated: Extending Cedar Lane through Washington Court to Route 24, linking Cedar Lane to Willoughby Beach Road through one of the proposed open space areas; and extending Nuttal Avenue from its current dead end near Lee Court west to Route 24.

Those changes would improve access to and around the community, as would the extension of local bus service and a MARC train schedule that brings people to Edgewood, not just out, as one of the meeting attendees mentioned. The study points out the train station can be a major community asset and gathering place but has for the most part been underused.

There was much discussion Wednesday among those in the audience about how to improve Edgewood’s image, or if it ineeds to be improved at all. In offering some potential ways to promote a positive image, Reitz said everyone needs to be patient.

“You have to start small and build up – or maybe just stay small if that’s what the community wants,” she said. “You’re not going to change everything overnight. It takes a partnership, it takes time.”

Strawn, the shopping center owner, said his property is 100 percent leased, new lighting was added and the parking lot was repaved recently. They are also are looking at building a couple pad sites because there is a demand for more tenants. He mentioned interest in the Washington Court redevelopment.

“I don’t think Edgewood should be so apologetic,” he said. “You have great people, a great community.”

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