Hard by the Baltimore City-Anne Arundel County line, Brooklyn Park is a typical, urban border town. It has a trash and prostitution problem. Worse yet, many residents are convinced that the stability of their neighborhood has been eroding in recent years as renters have replaced homeowners. Many have lost hope.
This feeling of pessimism is so overwhelming that improvements are often overlooked. Yet there are bright spots.
The most newsworthy item from Brooklyn Park these days is that the Ritchie Motel, that dilapidated fleabag that closed more than two years ago, has physically disappeared. A notorious hangout for prostitutes and transients, the property has been transformed into a strip shopping center with such tenants as a real estate firm, cellular phone company, dry cleaners and a Pizza Hut.
This is wonderful news for Brooklyn Park and its residents are rejoicing.
"The neighborhood is 100 percent happy, delighted and thrilled," said Arleen Hodges, president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association.
The first tenants have already moved into the 13,000-square-foot Brooklyn Park Shopping Center, which was considerably altered to suit its new retail and office use. Parts of the old motel building were demolished to make room for easier parking. The exterior was upgraded to make the center more appealing for those passing by on Ritchie Highway.
It would be naive to suggest that Brooklyn Park's image problems are resolved just because a public nuisance has disappeared.
Prostitution is not known as the world's oldest (read: most resilient) profession for nothing. Also, police arrest records suggest that many of those using the services of hookers on Ritchie Highway actually have Brooklyn Park addresses. Thus, eradicating prostitution truly is a Brooklyn Park community problem.
Nevertheless, the new Brooklyn Park Shopping Center is welcome because it shows buildings can be creatively recycled.
Now that the long recession seems to be gradually receding, we hope that it is also a reminder to owners and would-be buyers of other derelict properties in Brooklyn Park that they, too, can be turned into attractive and profitable uses.