By Jamie McCoy, Baltimore intern
Whalen Properties is hoping to buy land from the Spring Grove State Hospital in Catonsville in order to build a shopping center, which will be called the Catonsville Promenade. As a lifelong Catonsville resident enamored with the neighborhood’s small town feel, I was naturally suspicious of any sort of large scale development that could potentially change the face of the town. And I am not alone—“PromeNOT” signs can be found on many many lawns across Catonsville.
Catonsville’s Laura LeMire is involved with the group Catonsville Voices, which is spearheading the opposition to the development of the Promenade. The biggest concern that LeMire cites is traffic. “The beltway will be backed up, which will impact the community,” she says. “Traffic will overflow onto Frederick Road, Edmondson Avenue, Wilkens Avenue, and Rolling Road.” Although Whalen Properties promises that the traffic issues will be dealt with, LeMire has a hard time believing it.
Steve Whalen explains that he doesn’t want to create a mall that “feels just like every other mall in the country.” He says there will be a mix of bigger chains and smaller retail shops and restaurants—the big chains will be needed to pay the higher rent, but there will be an effort to get unique shops as well.
A 20-year Catonsville resident who preferred to be known only as Mr. Rich is wary of this plan. “Who needs another Target?” he asks. “We don’t want the mainstream restaurants and shops in our neighborhood. That’s just not Catonsville.” Rich would prefer to see the business district along Frederick Road improved, and is worried that the Promenade would take away from these local businesses.
Many of Frederick Road’s business owners refused to comment on the Promenade, but Sean Dunworth of the Catonsville Gourmet Restaurant said that the creation of the Promenade might actually bring more business to Frederick Road, and that, in general, he supports many of the things that Whalen has proposed. “A compromised version of the plan would be terrific,” he says. “Whalen would have to work with the community, but in general this Promenade could be a good thing.”
Whalen is certainly doing his research on the project. He has travelled all over the country visiting shopping malls that are attractive additions to communities, citing the Parole Towne Center in Annapolis and Santana Row in San Jose as examples. And he too is a lifetime Catonsville resident—he says he has the community’s best interests at heart. He wants to “enable residents to do everything from eating to shopping right in the community.”
It seems, however, that Whalen will have to do a lot of convincing to assure the community that Catonsville won't lose its feel. “I’m nervous about it too,” says Whalen. “It’s a big undertaking and we have one chance to do it right. That’s why you hire the best people to work on the project so that the job can be done well.”
Still the question remains: Do we really need it?
Photo courtesy of Whalen Properties.