Developer buys historic county shopping center

A Baltimore developer has bought the historic Dundalk Village Shopping Center, and Baltimore County officials have offered $2 million in loans and grants to help him overhaul the old, underused retail, office and apartment strip.

The recent purchase of the 87-year-old center by JMJ Dundalk Properties from Dunleer Co. will go a long way toward the continuing revitalization of Dundalk, an effort that includes a $2 million Dundalk Avenue streetscape, government and community leaders said.

"It's where commitment should be made, and we're making it," said County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who will be at the shopping center at 1 p.m. today to announce the sale. "It is also the focal point of the community in their eyes."

County officials said JMJ, which purchased the bulk of the buildings and parking lots on the shopping center site for $3.7 million, is expected to overhaul the property, stripping outdated upper-level apartments and changing them from Section 8 to market-rate housing while working to attract better retail tenants for the shops on the first level.

Although JMJ principal Jack S. Jacob had some initial ideas for the site, the county was looking for more of an upgrade and pledged $1.5 million in low-interest loans and $500,000 in grant money to help make it happen, county officials said.

The incentive package will be discussed at the County Council's work session tomorrow and is subject to council approval March 21, said David S. Iannucci, executive director of the county's Department of Economic Development.

"Frankly, we want the whole County Council to buy into this," said Iannucci, whose office marketed the site to potential buyers and took them to see the center.

Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., who represents Dundalk, said the county will recoup its investment in the long run.

"There's nothing wrong with $2 million in investment in the community, especially in a shopping center that's been needing attention for a long time," he said.

Jacob declined to comment on his plans for the center Friday, saying he's still "in the planning stages, thinking stages."

But a county official says the sale - from an absent owner resistant to change to one interested in sprucing up the aging center - is "a sort of breakthrough in terms of what comes next" for Dundalk.

"This is one of those projects that really makes people believe this renaissance is going to happen," said Mary L. Harvey, director of the county's Office of Community Conservation.

The shopping center was once the retail center of the community and can be again, said one community official. Jane Willeboordse, the executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp., said she'd like to return to the days when the center was a social gathering place for the community.

The site, which county officials said has vacancies and some space that could be better used, has a lot of potential, and the new owner seems to see that, Willeboordse said. She said she foresees a revitalized center with new housing, and open-air art shows and concerts in the adjacent park.- Lisa Goldberg


2 wounded police officers released from hospital

The two city police officers wounded in the Belair-Edison neighborhood Saturday night were released from the hospital yesterday, while the man who shot them was still being sought.

Officers Andrew Lane and Joseph Banks were shot after they responded about 11 p.m. to a call about a suspicious person standing on a porch in the 3200 block of Elmley Ave., police said.

When the officers approached, the man fled on foot and they ran after him. The man pulled out a gun and shot them as they struggled to subdue him, police said. The man escaped and was last seen on Belair Road, police said.

Lane was hit in his left calf, and a bullet grazed Banks' right hip. Neither officer returned fire, police said. They were reported to be resting at home yesterday.

-Melissa Harris

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