When Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden and Councilman Vincent Gardina last week rejected a zoning request for Worldbridge, some commentators were ready to bury the planned $1-billion development. Worldbridge as an Asian-themed cultural and trade complex may indeed be dead (although its initiator claims otherwise), but it is too early to assume that the 1,000-acre tract in Middle River will remain vacant.
When the dust settles, we would not be surprised to see New York developer Dean Gitter take his plans for Chinese dragons and other Oriental paraphernalia elsewhere. A different company might then emerge with a new and more realistic concept, get an option on the land now owned by the A. V. Williams interests, obtain permits and financing and win the support of county authorities. County Executive Hayden seemed to have this possibility in mind when he said that while he cannot support Worldbridge, he has "always" supported "a more positive economic development project, such as a business park. . . which would bring high-quality jobs to eastern Baltimore County."
"The county has always looked at that tract as an employment base," says Deputy Planning Director Arnold F. Keller III, noting the site's proximity to the main Washington-New York rail line as well as the interstate highway network, Port of Baltimore, Glenn L. Martin State Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It is difficult to find empty parcels this huge and convenient anywhere along the East Coast.
"It's ideal for a large user," comments Anthony J. Haley of the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission, which got Mr. Gitter interested in the parcel years ago. Before that, General Motors had taken a hard look at the site as a possible location for a Saturn car plant, which ultimately ended up in Tennessee.
The ultimate fate of Worldbridge is in the hands of trust lawyers controlling the A. V. Williams property. Mr. Gitter is not out of the picture until the lawyers determine he no longer should have an option to purchase the land. What happens to that parcel, though, could hold the key to the economic development of eastern Baltimore County.