May 10, 2007

Catonsville Times May 8, 2007

County executive's visit features personal touch
05/10/07By Scott Weybright
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County Executive Jim Smith, second from left, is accompanied by a group that includes county officials and business leaders as he takes a walking tour of downtown Catonsville May 1.Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith said a desire to see developer Craig Witzke's plans for 821-829 Frederick Road up close prompted his May 2 tour of downtown Catonsville.
"It's the perfect example of a mixed-use neighborhood where people can live, can work, can shop, can go to restaurants," said Smith of Witzke's plans for the property, which also includes two buildings on Newburg Avenue.
"It's just a strong statement of the vitality of Catonsville," said Smith, who checked out an apartment Witzke refurbished on the second floor at 821 Frederick Road, in addition to looking at the commercial space at the site.
Witzke told Smith other developers had suggested he tear down the existing structure at 821 Frederick Road and the former Muir Hardware building next door and build a drugstore on the property.
"I know that that financially, short term, would be the best thing," Witzke said. "But I grew up in Catonsville.
"I said I'll do that in another county," he added with a laugh.
The two men discussed the potential for a restaurant on the property, and Smith, who said he wants to see one there, acknowledged that liquor license restrictions make finding such a tenant difficult.
State law prohibits selling alcohol within 300 feet of a church in Baltimore County; Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church is located at 905 Frederick Road.
Smith said the county is looking to work with the state and the county liquor boards to create exceptions to the law for the county's renaissance neighborhoods, such as Catonsville, Arbutus and Baltimore National Pike.
Smith also stopped and talked to the owners of the Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe, Dixon Signs and the Ships Cafe on Frederick Road.
Dixon Signs owner James Dixon told Smith how pleased he was with the county's Department of Economic Development.
Dixon, who started the business in 1994, said the department helped his business complete renovations and additions to the property at 701 Frederick Road.
Smith also checked out the renovations at Ship's Cafe at 828 Frederick Road.
Emory Knode, the owner of Appalachian Bluegrass at 643 Frederick Road, said the visit was lighthearted and fairly short.
Knode, whose father opened the store in 1960, took a guitar out of a store display case for Smith to pretend to play during the visit.
Knode said the number of people in the touring group made serious discussion difficult.
New Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce executive director Jim Lister and Del. Jim Malone were among more than 20 people in the group.
Smith said the variety of businesses along the Catonsville thoroughfare is a strength of the community.
"Each business can feed off the other, which brings a larger segment of the population into the neighborhood downtown," he said.
Smith started the tour at Chef Paulino Cafe at 726 Frederick Road and ended it with lunch at the Italian restaurant about an hour later.
E-mail Scott Weybright at Scott


Anonymous said...

We're really excited about your plans for the downtown area! A pub or mexican restaurant would be great, even if people had to BYOB. Please don't give in to anyone requesting check cashing, bail bonds, etc.--there are plenty of places like that on 40, and we don't need that kind of clientele in a revitalization area.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to see something more on the line of a barnes and noble, a book store or cafe with free wi fi would be great, and would be successful with the surrounding colleges!

Anonymous said...

a few new hip trendy restaurants, shops and/or book stores are exactly what frederick rd needs. there are tons of 20 something that drive out to the city or even annapolis to walk "main street" to hang in places like this. lets bring catonsville people what they need so they don't have to go so far for it!!

On the Lighter Side!