Bel Air town officials, joined by dignitaries from the state and Harford County, formally dedicated the Armory Marketplace with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Sept. 21.
The event was attended by approximately 65 people including Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development Kenneth Holt, who spoke and presented the Town of Bel Air with a proclamation, according to town officials. Also attending was Elizabeth Carven, a former economic development official with Bel Air who is now deputy director of the Office of Business Development in the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Proclamations were also received from Harford County and the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Bel Air Mayor Susan Burdette recognized the town’s funding partners, including the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development through the Community Development Block Grant Program and the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation.
Armory Marketplace is a multi-year project that involved a wholesale renovation of the former garage area behind the Bel Air Armory into a retail and business incubator center.
In addition to converting the former garages into suitable businesses spaces, the project included rebuilding the parking area between the marketplace buildings and the main armory building, new utility services, murals painted on the Lee Street and Pennsylvania Avenue sides of the marketplace building and a connecting walkway to the Pennsylvania Avenue municipal parking lot.
According to the town, Armory Marketplace is fully occupied with four businesses in incubator suites and the Harford Artists Association.
Bel Air Economic Development Director Trish Heidenreich championed and directed the Armory Marketplace project from its inception in 2012-13 to its completion.
Also championing the project were Chris Schlehr, who was then the town administrator, and Carol Deibel, who was then planning director. Both attended last Friday’s ceremony.
Heidenreich, Schlehr and Deibel formed the Armory Users’ Committee, a group of community stakeholders who worked to create a vision for the Armory and its garages, which subsequently became Armory Marketplace, said Angela Robertson, the town’s grants and economic development coordinator.
Heidenreich pitched the project as one that would enhance the downtown economy and at the same time promoting the Main Street area’s Arts and Entertainment District designation.
The town spent approximately $700,000 on the project, with all but about $100,000 coming from state and federal grants.
More information about the project can be found on the town’s website, www.belairmd.org/524/Armory-Marketplace.