Residents hear about concepts for project


Planners and Baltimore County officials received applause along with some concerns from area residents last night as they presented a wide-ranging array of concepts for a riverfront village and marine complex in a redevelopment project at the headwaters of Middle River.

Ideas for the "tourist destination" - centerpiece of the county administration's east-side revitalization project - included a cluster of small offices; 15 to 25 homes; a "harbormaster restaurant," fish market and raw bar; green space; and a community center.

"We hope this would breathe new life into the community, that it would be an economic catalyst for the entire region, that people would be boating to Middle River to go to dinner," said Bill Renner of EDSA & Associates, a planning company from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., working on the project with Baltimore-based Whitman Requardt & Associates.

The planned tourist destination would be on a 20-acre site on Old Eastern Avenue, home to three underused marinas. Officials want to improve the site with marina facilities that are more attractive, a restaurant, retail shops and a promenade for strollers.

Owners Anna Mueller of Buedel's Marina, Jeanie River of Riley's Marina and Gary Rosenberger of Cutter's Marina are in discussions with the county. Among the options, officials said, are owners taking out loans to improve properties or selling a portion or all of the site to a developer.

The riverfront is part of a larger east-side revitalization plan in which hundreds of World War II-era apartments have been torn down to make way for improvements including single-family homes, public parks and a streetscape.

While the concepts received applause at the meeting at Middlesex Elementary School, attended by about 75 people, some - like Melvin Hager of Wilson Point - were wary of the impact on residents.

Hager said he and his family have been troubled by a restaurant and bar that he says plays loud music until 2 a.m. and rattles his home on Dark Head Creek.

"I have complained to the liquor board, I have called [County Executive C.A.] Dutch Ruppersberger's office, and nothing happens," said Hager, a father of two teen-age sons. "We need this development, but we all deserve to live in peace and quiet, and we have to be careful that the new businesses being proposed aren't going to intrude more on our lives."

Patty Zajdel, co-owner of the Commodore meeting hall and bar, had fears for the future of her family's business that is on the 20-acre site. It has been in her husband's family for a half-century, and "we have fed the homeless, we give meeting space free to churches, we help the community," she said.

"We think that the waterfront destination would be a wonderful," she said, but added: "I'm concerned about us. We don't want to disappear."

Others expressed support for the redevelopment and marina revitalization, but worried about what changes might mean for teen-agers.

"Our teens do not have a place to go," said Gene McGraw Jr. of Hawthorne. "In some neighborhoods, teens walk the streets all night. We have to get them involved in constructive pursuits."

The Rev. Bob Hartnett, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Essex, said, "The county is doing the wise thing here tonight by getting community input. Then they can incorporate people's concerns and they can work through any problems."

Among other proposals for the tourist destination would be two access roads, docking facilities and hundreds of additional parking spaces. The planners also received suggestions last night, including a call for a maritime and local history museum.

Listening to the proposals and watching the planners' slide presentation were John and Carol Swope, who have lived in Middle River since 1967.

"We love the water and we're looking forward to moving to the new WaterView," John Swope said of the residential portion of the project. "This is something good. We've been dumped on for years."

William Jones, waterfront development specialist with the county, said a compilation of the three concepts discussed last night could be ready by late fall. That plan would be presented in another community meeting.

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