Dundalk Village Shopping Center, the struggling heart of that east-side community, will be the focus of a revitalization study that will explore ways of retaining the site's historic patina while adding trendy lofts, new homes and rejuvenated retail space.
"Right now, we are looking at possibilities," said Jane Willeboordse, executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp.
She and other community leaders say that more funding will be needed to advance the study of the shopping center, a long, two-story brick building designed in 1919. And, they add, completion of the project is years away.
The first step in addressing the future of Dundalk Village, part of a larger effort to redevelop older east-side communities, was taken recently when the renaissance corporation voted to authorize the study.
Peter Batchelor, a professor of architecture at North Carolina State University's College of Design, will direct a team that will study the shopping center and adjacent open space. During the past two years, Batchelor has headed Urban Design Assistance Team examinations of Dundalk and the Essex-Middle River area.
The team's expenses and the cost of such items as a shopping center model that could be ready by summer's end will be covered by grants and private contributions.
The attention focused on Dundalk, and the shopping center, is exciting for residents such as Richard McJilton, a real estate agent and head of the local chamber of commerce. But he knows a lot of work needs to be done.
"It's great to see the energy of private and public minds and resources coming here. but it's going to be hard to pin down. ... We'll need to get something here to attract people to the center," he said. "And that's difficult to do because people want to go to malls."
He mentioned a time a few decades ago when the center, on Dundalk Avenue, bustled with commerce, including two drugstores, three banks and a movie theater. Now, the theater is a Dollar Store, and the center is dotted with vacant storefronts.
"We'd like to see a rejuvenation here much like what happened in Canton," said Willeboordse. "The need is to boost critical mass in the area, and that can be done with good retail investment and some new housing types overlooking Heritage Park."
The park is behind the shopping center and is the site of the annual Heritage Fair on the Fourth of July. Willeboordse said new housing could be built on parking areas, but would have to be done carefully "because this is a national historic district."
She said that in addition to new housing stock, lofts could replace apartments on the second floors of some buildings facing Dundalk Avenue and the Patapsco River beyond.