Thursday, October 13, 2011

Liberty Heights Redevelopment I Howard Park Town Centre

For thoroughfares that run through the outskirts of the City, I find it best to think of them as small towns and said thoroughfares as the "Main Street" of those small towns. Enter Liberty Heights Avenue, the perfect example of a Main Street that runs through a cluster of Neighborhoods in Northwest Baltimore in a manor that mimics Suburbia. This is the first in a series of three posts that will tackle Liberty Heights each post dedicated to a little "Town Centre" that will be developed or redeveloped to serve the needs of each Neighborhood Cluster. This particular post is dedicated to Howard Park.
Howard Park, as far as Liberty Heights is concerned is the closest to the City/County Line. Out of the three clusters, Howard Park has the best "bones" to work with, in other words redevelopment here will be minimal. The housing stock in Howard Park is also the most suburban of the three.
The "Howard Park Town Centre" got a shot in the arm when it was announced that at long last the addition of a full service grocer will be opening by 2013 in the form of a Shop Rite. The Shop Rite will be located on the site of the former Howard Park Super Pride at Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak Avenue which will be torn down to make way for the Shop Rite. Liberty Heights between Gywnn Oak and Hillsdale will be the core of Howard Park Town Centre.
The Shop Rite will definitely be largest Retail Change to the area but there should be another redevelopment project across Hillsdale Road. In my ever lasting crusade to bring new School Construction to Baltimore City, I'm proposing that Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary be torn down and rebuilt with the population of itself and two other neighboring Elementary Schools to cut down on the surplus of capacity City Schools face.
The front of the "new" Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary (which will be renamed Howard Park Elementary) will face Liberty Heights Avenue rather than Hillsdale like it currently does.
Aside from the old Super Pride that's shuttered, perhaps the biggest eye sore in the Howard Park Town Centre is the old Ambassador Theatre. I don't have much knowledge of this once vibrant epicenter of Howard Park but what I do know is that it is currently shuttered and there aren't any plans to revive it. Luckily my plan does include a revived Ambassador. One shortage that's painfully obvious in all of Baltimore is the lack of first run Movie Theatres. One should also note that large Cinema Multiplexes in the Suburbs show the same Movie on Several Screens. This proves that any new Movie Theatre should have fewer screens and maximize profits that way. The Ambassador fits the bill perfectly. Although it's a one screen venue currently, it has a seating capacity of over 1,000. The inside could easily be renovated to make way for five to seven screens each with a seating capacity between 100 and 200 per screen. With a smaller foot print, profits can be maximized without showing the same movie twice while still showing a good number of first run Movies. Whichever Theatre company takes over ownership of the Ambassador must restore the Vertical Marquis of the Ambassador to its former glory.
The last large piece of the Howard Park Town Centre includes what looks like a vacated iHop from the color scheme outside. This will not torn down but it will be backfilled by a Sonic. Judging by the volume of business at the only area sonic in Randallstown, I think this will be a winning venture.
Those are the biggest changes put forth in my Howard Park Town Centre Plan. I think these additions will encourage better Retail options than what is currently there. Additional Banks, Dry Cleaners, a Subway, Starbucks, and Sit Down Restaurants. In addition existing store fronts will be upgraded to include better signage and elimination of metal pull down gates and bars on windows to make for a more pleasing atmosphere.
Well that's my plan for the Howard Park Town Centre, the new Shop Rite makes for an excellent building block to set other things in motion and hopefully such a synergy can be acheived. Stay tuned for future posts regarding Liberty Heights as this is the first in a series.


Anonymous said...

My family moved to the neighborhood in 1946, I grew up there and still live there. What you describe as "Howard Park Town Centre" was Gwynn Oak Junction, where the streetcar lines running on Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak avenues intersected. The surrounding neighborhood was developed around 1920 as a streetcar suburb. Gwynn Oak Junction (and others, such as Liberty Heights and Garrison) typically had a Reads drug store, small clothing stores, a bowling alley, grocery stores (we had both an Acme at Liberty Heights and Woodbine, and an A&P on Gwynn Oak Avenue), medical offices, two movie theaters (the Gwynn was across the street from the Ambassador), a ballet school, beauty and barber shops, a bank, etc. What you describe as an iHop was a Roy Rogers. Before that, I think there was a residence on that site. I'm excited about seeing the Junction redeveloped, and marvel at seeing the open space there now that demolition is complete. I hope you'll post photos as the work continues.

Spence Lean said...

I'm glad to meet somebody who has watched Howard park and the Junction evolve from 1946 into what it is today. It sure sounded like a great place in its heyday and I hope with the ShopRite arriving that it will spur new activity in the Junction.

Tia H. said...

I have lived in Howard Park my entire life. The plan sounds absolutely lovely. Many of my neighbors have been working toward this goal for many years with many questionable stumbling blocks in our way... I could never understand why more focus was not pleased our community. This is a section of the "hallway" leading into Baltimore City. It is a crystal clear reflection of Baltimore City. The area is beautiful, has a lot of potential and a lot of perks. We would like to see our historic structures remain and quaint business establishments govern the junction. area. It is good to know that others share our vision but, it is our hope that action is truly taken to make thus dream a reality... Thank you for your wonderful blog. : )

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an update on the Liberty Heights area? Did the grocery store get developed? Has there been any other growth?

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the "IHOP" that previously had been a Roy Rogers was, before that the "Mayfair" drive inn restaurant (1964-1972) & before that "Gibson's". On that corner was a Police call box for the NW District. Across the street was a former residence used as a doctor's office by Dr. Thomas Abbott.