March 29, 2007


Catonsville has a chance to really benefit from the 20,000+ students that attend the University of Maryland at Baltimore Coounty.

David Schwartz, the New Executive Director of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and I met with several members of the staff at UMBC on Tuesday. They are very interested in working with the business community on Frederick Road.

We are looking into a regular bus schedule to shuttle students back and forth between the school and our business district. We also talked about bring the student "One Card" to Catonsvile. This is a card that the students can use to purchase goods, services and food (similar to a debit card). The Card is already accepted by several businesses in Arbutus and is gaining popularity.

Store Owners and Property owners THE BALL IS IN OUR COURT. We need to give the students a reason to visit the businesses on Frederick Rd. Maybe offer student discounts, student nights, entertainment, specials for UMBC students with ID.

We have a great opportunity to get some of these students to move here, if we make the apartments in the Frederick Rd area student oriented (ex. equip them for wi -fi).

Good things are happening! I will keep you updated. Craig

March 24, 2007

Letter to the Jeffersonian : March 22, 2007

In follow up to the article, Witzke Comes Up Dry, Persists – He still wants a liquor license. Written by Marsha Ames in the March 8, 2007 Issue of the Jeffersonian.

Obtaining a Liquor License is only one of obstacle's that makes it very difficult to Breathe New Life into Baltimore Counties Main Street Areas. A very important part of revitalizing a downtown area is attracting businesses that will draw new people to the area. In today's world, a world where more and more families eat meals away from home, more and more often. Increased options for dining out are not just desired, but needed. An Existing Restaurant, with a strong following, from a neighboring county can do wonders in terms of bringing new clientele to an area. Such Restaurants become an immediate destination. Their Patrons undoubtedly spill over into the other established eateries and shops, invigorating businesses, that have been local favorites for years! There are many restaurants that would love to open new locations, on some of the counties Main Streets, however, they count on alcohol sales, not only for their bottom line, but to draw customers as well. When people are attracted to an area, entrepreneurs open more stores and the area flourishes.

I have had the privilege of being a member of the Baltimore County Planning Board for a few years now. Having seen many presentations about mixed use developments and the revitalization of older areas I have become very interested in doing my part to help the process. I have developed a true appreciation for saving and using existing buildings. I understand how these old structures really add to the character of a community. However, trying to retrofit old buildings to new uses is no easy task. When these buildings were built, there was no ADA, fire codes, if existent at all, were much different and parking requirements were virtually non-existent. Zoning regulations were largely established, considering the uses that were in place at the time. Times have changed and many of types of businesses that were allowed in these commercial districts then can no longer make a profit in such a location today. And many businesses that may be a good fit are not allowed today due to the zoning laws. This is why many developers today will try to recreate "Main Street" in the middle of a large parking area. But, to have a true Main Street, it needs to be surrounded by neighborhoods, not parking. The ability to be able to walk to a pedestrian oriented commercial adds to the quality of life of the neighboring communities.

One of the most important things that I have learned, through my involvement with the Planning Board, is that the most successful projects are successful because of community involvement. This is usually done though Charettes, Town Meetings and letters between the developer and community leaders. We are trying a more active approach. We have created a website HTTP://WHATSGOINGONCATONSVILLE.BLOGSPOT.COM as a way to establish direct communication with all of the residents of Catonsville. This is a site where people can leave comments about the type of businesses that they would like to see in the neighborhood. It is a place where a business owner can find out if their business would be a good fit for the community. And it is a place where we can keep the community informed about the progress of the redevelopment of our project, Strawberry Fields at Catonsville. Please visit the site your comments are welcome.

The citizens of Baltimore County are very fortunate to have a County Executive, Jim Smith,, that is so interested in the renaissance of the Historic Commercial Areas in the County. I believe that he truly understands the vital role these areas offer to the surrounding communities. With the support of the County Executive and the great programs in place, through the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development. Renaissance is taking place all around the county. It is very exciting time to be a resident of Baltimore County.

March 15, 2007

Letter in the Times

I would like to thank Steve Whalen for writing this letter to the Catonsville Times

Developer's frustration proof county liquor laws are poor

Craig Witzke deserves credit for putting his hard-earned money where Baltimore County has long encouraged redevelopment activity ("Plan to tap property's potential hits snag," Catonsville Times, March 7).
Unfortunately, he's also discovered one dirty, little secret hindering effective commercial revitalization throughout Baltimore County.
Its liquor laws are archaic, anticompetitive vestiges of post-Prohibition, making it difficult to attract quality restaurant operations.
In an era when more meals are eaten away from home than ever, where restaurant activity can act as a major anchor to catalyze revitalization efforts, existing county legislation can most kindly be described as counterproductive.
Perhaps one can justify limitations on liquor stores, package goods facilities and bars near schools and churches.
But restricting legitimate restaurant operations (Class B licenses), located on the main commercial thoroughfare for 600 feet of valuable frontage in each one of at least three Frederick Road business district locations, simply defies common sense.
The Frederick Road commercial corridor isn't that long to begin with, and we're going to exclude 1,800 feet on both sides of the street?
Let's get real here, folks. Can we at least catch up with late 20th century practices, if not the 21st?
To their credit, both County Executive Jim Smith and David Iannucci, the county's director of economic development, have been pushing hard to correct inequities in the current system. Jack Milani, head of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Owners' Association, has been reasonably supportive of those efforts.
The problem lies with some of his members who hide behind these regulations to exclude competition.
As an office developer, I'd love to have the county tell my competitors they can't build near Whalen Properties' projects. That would be great for me. But it would be lousy public policy.
When Tom Booth or David Brown constructs a building nearby, it provides incentive to keep my projects in good repair, maintain competitive rents, and, most importantly, offer my tenants value for their rental dollar.
Competition works, and it will work in the restaurant business if we'll let it.
I wish Craig Witzke success with his undertaking. And I love Mexican food! I hope my family can toast his Frederick Road venture with a Dos Equis, a Corona, a couple chimichangas and a burrito there some day very soon.
Steve Whalen
Whalen Properties

March 13, 2007

Invitation From The Catonsville Chamber of Commerce

11th Annual Taste of Catonsville
Presented by the
Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce
Monday April 23rd, 2007
Rolling Road Golf Club
$30. in advance - $35. at the door
To Order Tickets call 410-719-9609
or order online at
Past Participants Include
G.L. Shacks
Chef Paolino's
Jennings Cafe
Sam's Bagels
Ship's Cafe
The New Tiffany's
Trolley Stop
Whitehouse Caterers
Candlelight Inn
Rolling Road Golf Club
The Ville Grille
Edible Arrangements
Old Country Buffet

March 9, 2007

In The News!

(We Will Get Past This!
Excitement is Brewing and Options are Presenting Themselves!
Craig )

Catonsville Times
03/08/07By Marcia Ames

Plan to tap property's potential hits snag

Craig Witzke said his search for restaurant tenants for his Frederick Road property has been hampered by a state law denying a liquor license within 300 feet of a church.
Craig Witzke wants to spice up Catonsville's restaurant scene with a dose of Mexican food, but says his plan needs a liquor license to succeed.
Unfortunately for the Catonsville developer, unless the state lifts its prohibition against selling alcohol within 300 feet of a church in Baltimore County, he has a snowball's chance south of the border in getting such a license.
Witzke is proposing a restaurant for the former Muir Hardware store property he owns at 929 Frederick Road.
That site, though, is near the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 905 Frederick Road.
Although he hasn't polled the church's members, Witzke said he realizes the law would override their possible support for such a plan.
The county has no leeway in enforcing the law in question other than to exempt a business whose liquor license predates the legislation, said Gerard Kilduff, chief inspector, deputy administrator and a 20-year veteran of the county's Board of Liquor License Commissioners.
Witzke refused to say whether or how he might challenge the restriction.
But he has raised the issue on his blog,, which he initiated in February to engage Catonsville residents in his plans to redevelop the Muir store site.
Witzke's A & A Enterprises company bought 929 Frederick Road in August 2006 for $1.3 million, according to state tax records.
The purchase also included two houses around the corner, at 9 and 11 Newburg Ave., with backyards that extend behind the former hardware store and could be used for parking.
He intends to retain all three buildings, which are more than a century old, "rather than destroying what we have," he said.
Several people have asked about the possibility of opening a restaurant at the former hardware store, he said, and some restaurant owners have contacted him as well.
"We've got good restaurants here already that people like to go to, but the public, I believe, deserves more choices," he said, noting a dearth of Mexican fare.
He believes an additional restaurant would benefit those other destinations in town.
"Having a group of restaurants attracts people to the area," Witzke said.
"Then they can choose which restaurant they're going to when they get there."
Because he plans to use the existing store building, the "F" level-of-service grade proposed this year for Frederick Road's intersection with Bloomsbury and Ingleside avenues, less than a mile away, poses no threat, he said.
If the County Council confirms the F later this spring, as the Planning Board and Department of Public Works have recommended, the failing grade will result in a moratorium on building permits for most development.
But Witzke won't need any building permits to renovate his property, he said.
Only the liquor license, or lack of one, stands in his way, he said.
To suggest other uses for 929 Frederick Road, go to Witzke's Web page,

March 8, 2007

"Head Shop ! ? "

This Email was Sent to Me This Morning :

Dear Craig,
I am writing concerning the new store, 'Sunshine Peace' , currently
doing business in your building. If I am wrong and you do not own this
property and are not renting to Sunshine Peace, then view this letter as a
concerned parent and citizen of Catonsville. I have been told that
there is a back room, offered to view for teenagers entering the store,
that displays an assortment of bongs, pipes, stickers and decals
promoting drug use and various other items. I have not been in 'the back room'
, but intend to wander down there and look for myself. Are you aware of
this? The last thing Catonsville needs is a 'head shop' to attract our
youth. My sources are reliable...they entered the store yesterday to
look at the cool tee shirts and were then invited by the clerk to view
the back room. Even as teenagers, they were uncomfortable and promptly
left and informed me. I know this is not someplace you would want your
own children or their friends to frequent. I appreciate your response.
Thank you.

My Response:
I would like to start off by stating that I DO NOT OWN THE PROPERTY IN QUESTION.
I would also like to point out, that Record and Tape Traders, across the street, has sold many similar items for many years. Both stores appear to be operating within the letter of the law.

I do find it Ironic that, while the majority of the community would like to have a restauarnt in Catonsville, we are unlikely to attract one because of Maryland's archaic liquor laws regarding Baltimore County. And, if we are able to find a restaurant that would be willing to open here, without serving alcohol, adults will dodge traffic and walk accross the street to buy alcoholic beverages which they will bring in and enjoy with their food, while their children will be able to walk down the street and legally buy merchandise related to the use of illegal drugs. What is the sense?

Maybe someone else will open a Hookah Lounge, a BYOB Strip Club or a Gun Shop on Frederick Rd. Now that would change the character of "Main Street."

March 7, 2007


It is really great that so many of you are sharing your suggestions and ideas!

I think most of us would be happy with a Restaurant, whether is sells alcohol or not. The Challenge is attracting a business to Catonsville, that doesn't count on alcohol for part of their revenues.

Several of you have suggested National Chains, that offer Mexican food. While they would probably do very well here they bring an entire new set of issues:

First of all Baltimore County Does Not want any more Fast Food on Frederick Rd. And I agree, we can do better.

I have contacted several of the businesses, that have been suggested,and I can tell you that they either want to be on Rt. 40, with its higher traffic count and drive through. Or they want to be in a shopping center.

The operators of the suggested Restaurants also want the existing buildings torn down so that they can put up their, homogenized, muti duplicated, pre-fab structures. Do we want Catonsville to look like everywhere else?

The idea of splitting up the hardware store into stalls like Belvedere Square, sounds beautiful. But, at most, maybe two of the Vendors from Belvedere could share the space. It is just not large enough to be split up. By the way, people can enjoy an alcoholic beverage at Belvedere Square - Like it or not, Alcohol is always a big draw. A key element to the success of any Revitalization Project.

When this site was started, part of our mission was to find out if the community thought it was a good idea for us to save the old buildings. Now, that the intersection at Frederick and Bloomsbury has been rated as a Failed Intersection. It is no longer even a viable option to tear down the buildings and build something new.

Our focus now, is to determine the best businesses for the existing buildings. We would also like to know, if Restaurants are put in, would it be a good idea to have a courtyard for outdoor dining and community events. Or would the space be better suited for a few more parking spaces.

We have had some entrepreneur's with very interesting ideas contact us lately. It is really exciting. Please keep this dialogue going so that we can be sure and pick the right businesses.

As Always, Thank You for Your Input! Craig

March 3, 2007


Many People have Expressed the need for Additional Restaurants as Part of This Project. I too, believe that More Restaurants are Needed to Reinvigorate the Area.

There is an Area, Behind the buildings at 821-827 Frederick Rd., That has Historically Been Used as A Storage Lot. We are Proposing to Make This an Outdoor Common Area - A Gateway from The Parking Lot to Frederick Rd. This Could be a Great Space, With Benches and Landscaping and Tables for Outdoor Dining.

Here are some more Renderings prepared With the Assistance of Baltimore County's Architect on Call Program. (Please Note that the Carry Out Restaurant Depicted in The First Rendering Is Just One of the Businesses that Have Contacted Us, We have Not Made any Commitments as of Today.) Is Rita's a business that you Would Like to See Here?

You Can also see Part of the Parking Area that Would be accessed through the Driveway at 829 Frederick Rd.

These Pictures are Currently on Display in The Window at 827 Frederick Rd.

Comments Please!

March 1, 2007


I have always thought that Catonsville Could be a College Town! I am not suggesting a Party Town, but, a Place with Bookstores , Cafes, Music and other Businesses that are attractive to the Thousands of Students at these Schools. A Town that is Safe and Welcomes the Students with open arms. Where do the Students go now? Where do they go when their Parent's or Friends Come to Visit them? What Kind of Impression does Catonsville Leave? It Seems to me that if the businesses would market themselves towards the Students, the Town would Flourish and business would be Great.

I have talked with Scunny, the guy that owns Nacho Mama's, he would love to be here in Catonsville. I have also discussed this project with Someone that Would like to bring a Greene Turtle Franchise to the area. These are the types of businesses that Would draw so Many Customers that Ship's and Jenning's etc., would not be able to handle the overflow. New Restaurants would have to follow, to keep up with demand.

Many of the People that I have Spoken with, see the incredible demographics at the local schools. They also see a large work force, that would needs local employment. I have also always thought, that Catonsville merchants should have a shuttle that Runs on a regular basis, back and fourth from UMBC. Does UMBC have a shuttle that would bring people here? if There is one, Where does it take Students Now?

I have visited some College Towns and the Surrounding Communities usually seem to love the Arts, the Entertainment, and the entire Eviroment that is created, when the Students are involed.

I am really glad to see a couple of Students replying to this blog. Please Pass it on to your Classmates.

On the Lighter Side!