Edgewood's enterprise zone designation, with tax credits for expanding businesses and new companies, might help several firms move forward with construction or expansion plans.
The possibility of receiving tax credits through the enterprise zone provided the "little something extra" that made Mars Supermarkets Inc.'s decide to proceed with construction of its Woodridge Shopping Center in Edgewood, said chief executive officer Dennis C. McCoy.
Renovation of the aging Edgewood Shopping Plaza is planned to begin in a few months, too. And the owners of Lakeside Motel at U.S. 40 and Mountain Road 152, a mile or so west of the proposed Mars center, are hopeful they can use enterprise zone funds to renovate the 35 year-old facility.
Paul Gilbert, director of the county's office of business and economic development, cautioned that businesses have to apply to the county for a certification of eligibility to qualify for the tax credits and other benefits such as low-interest loans. He said they are not awarded automatically. So far, no projects have been approved, he said.
"I think that a lot of what we are seeing now would have happened anyway . . . but the fact that the designation came about gave investors and companies the push to move forward," Mr. Gilbert said.
Mr. McCoy said he had decided to postpone indefinitely construction of the 110,000-square-foot shopping center outside the Woodridge residential community when he took over management of the supermarket chain in mid-March.
"The numbers made it difficult to justify building the center. It just wasn't financially feasible," he said.
Once Edgewood was designated an enterprise zone in mid-June, the company decided to move ahead. The enterprise zone stretches from Joppatowne on the Baltimore-Harford county border along U.S. 40 to Route 24 in Edgewood.
"The zone put us back on the fast track with that shopping center. For us, the tax benefits, including real estate tax credits, made it financially feasible," Mr. McCoy said.
Real estate tax credits in the enterprise zone are applied against the increase in assessment created by new construction, expansions or major renovations. The county continues to receive the property taxes it currently collects on the land, Mr. Gilbert said. "The county never gives up one cent of the money it is collecting," he said.
Mars also has set its sights on receiving up to $3,000 in tax credits, which would reduce the amount of income taxes it pays the state, for hiring economically disadvantaged people. The tax credit, if granted, would be phased in over three years. The state is working on a definition of who meets the economically disadvantaged criteria in Harford, Mr. Gilbert said.
Mars expects to employ about 110 full-time and part-time workers. The other stores are expected to hire about 100 workers, Mr. McCoy said.
The company will start construction of the shopping center in about two weeks, he said. The center, which will cost about $3 million, should be completed this spring.
In addition to a 52,000-square-foot Mars store, plans call for the center to include a drug store, a women's clothing shop, a shoe store, a video store, an Italian restaurant and a bank branch. A freestanding restaurant is planned for the parking lot.
Mars, in a planned second phase of the shopping center, wants to build a midsize general merchandise facility, such as a Target store, Mr. McCoy said. He could not say when the second phase might be started.
Another project moving ahead because of the enterprise zone is the renovation of the Edgewood Shopping Plaza at 2216 Hanson Road, anchored by a 25,000-square-foot Santoni's grocery store, said Santoni's President Robert N. Santoni Sr.
Mr. Santoni praised the benefits of the enterprise zone &r; designation and said he doubted the shopping center would have been scheduled for renovation so quickly without it.
The aging strip center's renovation probably will begin this fall and take about two months to complete. Mr. Santoni said his supermarket, part of a chain, will not close during the renovations. The strip shopping center will get a new facade with updated storefronts, new signs, a new parking lot and a much-needed paint job.
The shopping center is owned by First Washington Management in Bethesda. Ed Dosik, property manager, was on vacation and did not return phone calls.
Konrad and Jean Steck plan to apply for low-interest loans to pay for the renovation of their 35-year-old Lakeside motel. Mrs. Steck said she is hopeful that low-interest loans and other enterprise inventives can be used to lure a restaurant to the 14-acre complex.
The Stecks will open their Super 8 Motel next to Lakeside on Sept. 26. The 45-room hotel, to be owned and managed by the Stecks, will employ about 10 people.
"We had wanted to expand for a long time. But because Lakeside is so old, it was very difficult to do," Mrs. Steck said. She said Lakeside was having a hard time competing with modern, national motel chains situated mostly around the Interstate 95 interchanges at Aberdeen and Edgewood.
Once the Super 8 Motel opens, renovation of the 23-room Lakeside will begin. Lakeside's 23 rooms will be striped to their cinder block walls and concrete floors. "We have to pull out the antique wiring and the old iron pipes," Mrs. Steck said. L
When the Lakeside renovation is done, the Stecks plan to rent rooms at Lakeside by the week or the month, she said. The Super 8 Motel will cater to overnight visitors.
The three other enterprise zones designated this year are Waterview Industrial Park in Baltimore City, which was renewed; Fruitland in Wicomico County; and Snow Hill in Worcester County, according to Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.
A meeting is planned at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Edgewood High to answer questions about the enterprise zone. The county's office of business and economic development has sent 550 notices to businesses in the area. For more information, call 638-3059.