If there was any question as to whether business owners favored the creation of a in the heart of Perry Hall, all doubt was erased during a at Thursday evening.
Fifth District Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who arranged for the hour-long meeting, asked, “A show of hands—does anyone here not agree with this plan?” All 30 people in attendance gave unanimous support by keeping their hands down, prompting one business owner to laugh, “That doesn’t happen often, does it?”
The plan's main purpose is to boost business at the 50-year-old Perry Hall Square Shopping Center, Marks said, which is showing several vacancies and is generally considered to be out of step with the times.
The revitalization district would also follow Belair Road from Blakely Avenue north to Minte Drive, extend along Joppa Road west to Seven Courts Drive and cover Ebenezer Road east to Yvonne Avenue.
Marks told the audience that he will introduce the plan for a County Council vote on Monday, and added that he believes it is “likely to pass.” If approved, the plan could go into effect within 45 days or less.
“There are no new taxes associated with this designation,” Marks emphasized, “no extra fees, no change in zoning and, as a business owner, you don’t have to take advantage of any of these opportunities if you don’t want to.”
A guest speaker during Thursday’s meeting was Andrea Van Arsdale, who was nominated earlier this month to become the county’s Director of Planning, but has most recently served as Director of Commercial Revitalization in the Department of Economic Development.
Van Arsdale told the crowd that Perry Hall would become the county’s 15th officially designated revitalization district, joining the ranks of other former commercial hubs in older “beltway” communities that have struggled due to “changes in demographics and retail shopping preferences.” Other such districts are in Overlea-Fullerton, Parkville, Dundalk, Essex and Towson.
The county established its commercial revitalization program in the 1980s and began offering incentives such as low-interest loans, streetscape enhancements, tax credits, expert advice, regulatory assistance and grants for district-wide improvements.
Van Arsdale asserted that, due to budget constraints, the availability of grants in the Perry Hall area cannot be assured. But she outlined a host of major program components that range from providing gap financing for new or expanding small businesses to securing the assistance of an “Architect On Call” who would offer professional architectural design services.
“This district is another layer of benefits you can access as a property owner or business owner,” Van Arsdale told the audience. “It can’t hurt you; it’s only here to help.”
Tom Van Poppel, who has been handling performance auto parts at Maryland Performance Specialties for 27 years, said he would appreciate access to the benefits available to businesses in revitalization districts.
“I’d like to look at the loan opportunities,” he said, adding that it would also be beneficial to share the information with some of his neighbors in and around the 8800 block of Belair Road. “There are places that need work. I think we could all improve from it.”
Many people attending Thursday’s meeting, while showing no opposition to the creation of a revitalization district, spoke in favor of investigating options to redevelop Perry Hall Square, possibly introducing a new residential and commercial mix. The notion of a senior housing complex drew positive feedback.
“The idea of senior housing, I think, is very attractive,” Marks said. “As the population ages, … we need to be thinking of housing options that keep seniors in Perry Hall.”
Marks has met with Kimco Realty, representatives for the shopping center, and has asked for plans to “creatively redevelop the shopping center property.” Kimco was not represented at Thursday’s meeting.
Van Arsdale said that “the councilman reaching out to the property owner is kind of the first step in pressuring them to make the right changes.” She added that business owners must be patient because “all of this stuff takes a long time,” but continuing a dialogue with Kimco is “critical”.
Small businesses were well-represented at Thursday’s meeting. Also on hand were State Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and Del. Eric Bromwell.
Van Arsdale said she was heartened by the reaction of those in attendance saying, “They were very engaged and seemed to be genuinely concerned about what’s going on.”
She concluded: “In revitalization, when one or two big players get involved and make changes, it ... inspires others to keep up.”