For 32 years, a green monster has defined Ritchie Highway's approach to Glen Burnie. The shoebox-like structure just south of the Baltimore Beltway belongs to the Motor Vehicle Administration, the behemoth bureaucracy that issues driver's licenses, registration tags and decides who is fit to drive.
The good news regarding the MVA headquarters is that the institutional green of the building will be replaced by a white facade, trimmed in red. The bad news, for the next year anyway: It is only part of a $4.4 million renovation that will keep the MVA's base in a constant state of flux until next June.
Simply put, the building is a place to avoid until that time, which thankfully is an easier warning to heed these days. There was a time when the MVA headquarters was far more familiar to Maryland motorists, but now most drivers can do their business by mail or by visiting a number of branch offices, from Annapolis to Hagerstown.
It is usually the hopeless procrastinators who still find themselves at the MVA in Glen Burnie. Once there, they enter a warren of cubbyholes that is so confusing that visitors almost need a Sherpa guide and dogsled to reach their destination.
The aim of the renovation is to simplify the headquarters' layout and modernize customer services. Visitors scrambling to pay overdue parking fines or renew tags should be able to do so without becoming so confused. As work places are reconfigured, employees will have an easier job, too.
The MVA's new look is a welcome development. The building remains virtually the lone, unmodernized miscreant in a stretch of new and renewed shopping centers and hotels. When the renovation is complete, it should benefit the look of Glen Burnie overall.
TALKING ABOUT GLEN BURNIE, the antique-shop district around Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard has gone through many changes. Despite skeptics, the district has proved its resilience and is there to stay.
Glen Burnie, home to automotive showrooms and the aforementioned Motor Vehicle Administration headquarters, might seem an odd place for antiquing. But merchants and customers are proving that some community stereotypes were made to be broken.