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.


B Stevens said...

Wasn't there some sort of sushi joint that was to open there? I remember some girl coming around and taking surveys of people when I was walking around downtown months ago. It seems like a really good idea?

Anonymous said...

A Sushi Bar is a great idea. I would love to see one locate here.

I was contacted by the girl that you are talking about. I think she is still doing "Market Research".


Anonymous said...

I would love to see a restaurant in the old hardware store. What a shame that the gourmet shop fell through! As a 17 year resident of Catonsville, I wish that Frederick Road could be part of the county push that Jim Smith is fostering to revitalize older downtown areas. In order to do this we need to encourage small and mid-sized businesses to be part of the Frederick Road corridor. Having a restaurant that sold alcohol would not detract from the neighborhood, on the contrary, it would probably mean more customers for existing eateries.I would like to see our local politicians put support behind all endeavors to bring folks back to Frederick Road.
Rebekah Kaufman

On the Lighter Side!