Town Center construction to begin; Glen Burnie, county hope shopping center boosts town economy


Crews might finally begin construction on the Glen Burnie Town Center this week, more than four months after the county held a festive groundbreaking for the long-planned project.

Developers closed the deal last week for the 56,000-square-foot shopping center that will anchor the town center on county-owned property. However, the construction of a 54-unit apartment complex by another private developer and an ice rink and plaza by the county remains in the planning stages.

Workers will begin leveling the 5.5-acre site now dominated by a parking lot next to the Arundel Center North. It has been closed and fenced for months. About 85 percent of the space in the shopping center is leased, with Food Lion to occupy one of four buildings and a bank, pizza and sub shop, coffee shop, hair salon and dry cleaner also set to open.

The county and developers have spent several months working out the legal and financial issues of the deal, in which a private group called Site 8 LP will develop the shopping center. The site is bounded by Ritchie and Crain highways and New Jersey Avenue.

Without major delays, the shopping center could open by September, said J. Lawrence Mekulski, a partner in Site 8 and a partner with KLNB Inc., the center's leasing agent.

"Can you hear the 'Hallelujah Chorus' in the background?" Mekulski said. "There were so many pieces of this. It's like orchestrating a symphony."

County and community leaders want the start of construction to spur development elsewhere in downtown Glen Burnie, including a block of buildings on Crain Highway struck by fire last week.

Fire darkens downtown

The Dec. 28 fire burned out what Glen Burnie leaders considered a bright spot in the commercial downtown, the Judges Chambers restaurant near Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, and damaged other businesses on the block.

The restaurant, within walking distance of Anne Arundel County District Court, banks, and law offices, had been open less than a year when a two-alarm fire caused $200,000 in damage.

Owner Chris Allison, who opened the restaurant with Tim Konig, would not comment last week on their plans for the business. Crews from Servpro, a cleaning and restoration company, were examining the damaged building.

If the site remains vacant, it would be an eyesore downtown can't afford, said Joseph Corcoran, who has lived in Glen Burnie for more than 50 years and was president of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association.

"It put a little class in the downtown area," Corcoran said of the restaurant with its brass-accented facade and an interior that had a legal theme. "Now, here we have another charred building in downtown. It was coming along pretty good, that block," until the fire.

But bulldozers and construction crews working nearby may inspire business owners to rejuvenate other parts of the area, he said.

Projects hold hope

The shopping center is the first part of the town center project to get started. Next will be the apartment complex, to be built by Struever Brothers, Eccles & Rouse, and the plaza, which will serve as an ice rink in the winter, to be developed by the county.

County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., who represents the 2nd District, said he is glad to see progress but is disappointed that the businesses locating in the retail complex are not more unusual.

"What we wanted there is something that would cause people to come to Glen Burnie and walk and shop in other stores," Klosterman said. "A sub shop is not going to do that. It was unfortunate that we could not have gotten some boutiques, but maybe that will still come."

Construction of the mix of stores, apartments and a recreational area is the end of more than 20 years of planning. But it should not be the end of planned revitalization in Glen Burnie, the Democratic councilman said.

For example, he said, the town center boundaries could be expanded to include a proposed hotel at the LaFontaine Bleu banquet hall on Ritchie Highway.

"This is the end of one process but the beginning of another," Klosterman said. "If we just let it stop there, we're going to lose the benefit of additional renewal we can do in this area."

Pub Date: 1/03/99

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