A bill critical to a project to renovate a long-abandoned building that used to house a historic general store in Galesville passed the Anne Arundel County Council unanimously Monday night.
The legislation to reclassify the half-acre parcel in the south county town along the West River from a limited development area to an intensely developed area will enable the new owners, the resident-run nonprofit Galesville Community Properties Inc., to renovate and subdivide the property.
The nonprofit plans on reopening the storefront at 1000 Galesville Road, also known as Main Street, as a store and eatery by next fall. The facility functioned as a general store from the Civil War era until about 15 years ago, and locals say the street corner is sorely missing a community gathering space for residents to eat, play games, talk and foster relationships with neighbors.
In the heyday of the watermen’s trade, the store which went by names including Kolb’s Store and West River Market, offered anglers, sailors and oyster farmers a respite to grab a sandwich, fresh pair of overalls or bottle of kerosene. Those who worked in the oyster trade could buy on credit until the oysters came in and they were able to pay off their bills, said Jim Chandler who serves as both president of Galesville Community Properties Inc. and Galesville Heritage Society.
Now that the bill has been passed by the council, the project, which has been about three years in the making, will be reviewed by the Maryland Critical Area Commission which needs to ensure the project won’t compromise sensitive land or adversely impact the Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s been a long time so it’s great that it’s finally done. Of course we still have a lot of hurdles, but this is the biggest one because this means the county is in favor of it,” said Holly Clark with Galesville Community Properties.
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The bill allows the nonprofit to separate off a residential piece of the property in the back to sell in order to pay back lenders who provided the $785,000 to buy the property from the former owners, the Dixon family. For renovations, including a new roof, knocking down the flooring separating the first and second levels and a new interior structure, the nonprofit is attempting to raise $600,000, $400,000 of which it has already received from donors.
“This has been very much a community-driven effort,” said Councilmember Shannon Leadbetter, a Crofton Republican who represents South County including Galesville, adding that the nonprofit has been consistently transparent with the community about their plans and incorporated residents’ feedback and desires throughout the process.
The goal, Chandler said, is for those who have lived for many decades in Galesville to recognize it from back when they were children, when many neighborhood kids worked at the store. The nonprofit board envisions it will look most similar to how the store appeared in the 1930s, even hearkening back to the era by bringing back the larger-sized windows that used to adorn the sides.
“You’ll recognize it from the outside but from the inside you’ll be like, ‘This is totally different,’” Chandler said.
Other than a few aesthetic improvements like a fresh coat of paint, many of the changes to the inside the group plans to make will be in service of ensuring it’s in compliance with 2023 construction code including a new kitchen and stronger insulation.
Council members said they are excited to see what the nonprofit achieves in the next year.
“It’s just an area that needs a little attention to it so I look forward to seeing what can be done,” said Councilmember Julie Hummer, a Laurel Democrat.