Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced on Wednesday a new tax credit program aimed at incentivizing revitalization along the aging Route 1 corridor.
Standing in front of Kake Korner, a pastry shop on Route 1 in North Laurel, Ulman said he hoped the program would help to "continue and accelerate" progress along Route 1.
"It really depends upon property owners on Route 1 to buy into the vision that we share for Route 1, and that is a Route 1 that is revitalized from farthest northern tip in Elkridge down through North Laurel to the Prince George's County line," he said. "It doesn't take long to see what a beautiful, colorful building means when it comes to revitalization. The color matters, the redevelopment of the façade matters, the sign matters – this all matters in the way we feel about our neighborhood, the way we feel about the corridor."
Diane White, who has owned Kake Korner for the past decade, said her landlord would be applying for a tax credit through the program, which was passed by the County Council Monday and offers up to $100,000 in property tax credits per business for approved work.
"It would be stupid not to, because we have to pay property taxes anyway," White said.
White called Kake Korner, with its white siding and pastel pink shutters, "a jewel in the middle of the desert.
"There's a lot of properties up and down this road that aren't doing anything to make it better," she added.
White said she had spent between $40,000 and $50,000 in improvements to the property already, and said she and the landlord would like to repave the parking lot, repaint parking space lines, install a fence on the side of the property and display painted brick cupcakes on poles out front of the business -- projects which she estimated could end up costing about $25,000.
Steve Lafferty, the county's director of special projects for planning and zoning, said he hoped more businesses like White's would work with the county through the tax credit program.
"What we're saying to people is that the county is willing to commit its own resources to reinvest in you. We're asking you to step up and be a partner in that process," he said.
Lafferty said the Department of Planning and Zoning, along with the county's Economic Development Authority, would be working to identify eligible businesses along the Route 1 corridor.
The credit, which passed the council unanimously, covers repairs, expansions and enhancements that are "necessary to maintain the physical integrity of the property, with regard to safety, durability or weatherproofing," according to language in the bill. It does not include landscaping or interior work that is non-essential to the building's structural integrity.
Property owners who are approved for the program will receive 125 percent of the project's cost as a tax credit.
To qualify, the property must front Route 1 or be visible from Route 1 and adjoin a parcel that fronts the corridor.