A plan released in January by Anne Arundel County laid out big changes for the Glen Burnie town center including a new art installation, safer roadways and crossings and, perhaps the loftiest goal of all, a development to replace a number of government buildings and a salvage yard with housing and retail. That development is soon coming to the area, the county announced last week.
The Michaels Organization, a real estate development group with properties in more than 35 states, will turn the 13-acre plot owned by the county at 7409 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., into a mixed-use development that will include apartments, lofts, townhomes and commercial space.
The New Jersey-based company was among three finalists reviewed by a team of officials from County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration after the county first began soliciting bids for the contract about six months ago.
“The Michaels Organization really put together a great mixed-use project that has a lot of public benefit, community amenities [and] a stronger commercial presence along B&A Boulevard than the other proposals,” said Matt Power, Pittman’s chief administrative officer, who was part of the review team.
“There has been a movement to shut down the light rail and I’ve always said we need more public transit, not less, and if more people use it, it will be safer,” Pittman said. “It can really drive the kinds of development that gets cars off of roads, the kind of development millennials are looking for.”
The development will have a positive ripple effect in the area, Pittman said, including, hopefully reducing crime at the nearby light rail stop by creating a more bustling town center nearby.
The most exciting part of the project is revitalizing what is otherwise a mostly vacant lot, said Anne Arundel County Councilmember Allison Pickard, who represents Glen Burnie.
“There’s a lot of really awesome potential [in the area] if we just break down the barriers to it,” Pickard said.
The Glen Burnie Town Center Revitalization Plan is part of a countywide project to redevelop three areas near transit centers, including Parole and Odenton, to add density and create neighborhoods where families can “live, work and play” without needing a car, according to the county’s Office of Planning and Zoning.
“It’s on the B&A Trail. People who live there can get to Annapolis on a bicycle. They can get on a train and go to Baltimore. They can walk down to the Glen Burnie Town Center and have dinner and a drink,” Pittman said. “I see this site as really important to show other developers that this works.”
Not everyone is thrilled about the development, however. The project will likely mean a church, God’s Perfect Will Ministries, located in one of the county buildings on the 13 acres, will need to relocate as the area is leveled to prepare for the construction.
Much more than a nondenominational church, it’s hosted funerals and weddings for those who can’t afford them, helped residents with rent and mortgage payments, collected school supplies for kids in need and generally worked with Glen Burnie’s Black and low-income communities for the past seven years, Pastor Terry Allen said.
The building was “raggedy as a bowl of pot rocks” when he first arrived there, Allen said, but the community built it up over time and invested in it to become a valuable community asset. About 50 congregants come to church services every week while nearly 300 tune in online. Sometimes as many as 700 people will watch the church’s videos on TikTok, Allen said. People come from all over the region to take advantage of its services.
“We let people know we wanted to stay here,” he said. “Now they’re telling us to get out.”
The church’s lease ends early next year and those at the church have always known this is a temporary spot, Pittman said.
“They do great work and we’re going to do everything we can to help them find another location,” he said.
The project is not yet finalized, but one thing the county knows for sure is the development will have at least some affordable housing units, Power said.
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The first step for the new development is an environmental study that is now underway to assess remediation needs on the property before construction begins, Power said. Next, the county and Michaels Organization will reach out to the community for feedback and suggestions on the project.
One piece of the revitalization plan included redesigning Rotary Park on the corner of Crain Highway and B&A Boulevard. Pittman, Pickard and others cut the ribbon on the park last month finished off with original art from public art students at Anne Arundel Community College.
Art students Jenny Thomas and Anna Broomfield, led by professor Matt Klos, painted poles around the park. The artwork took about five months from design to completion after the county approached the students to create the work last fall.
“We knew that we wanted to add color there,” Klos said, adding they decided to match the color palette on the poles with the colors from the mural across the street that community college students had done a few years earlier. “[Thomas] invented these little illustrative characters, just sort of everyday scenes showing a range of different people from different backgrounds. She’s from Glen Burnie so a lot of her ideas came from her local community.”
Klos’ students will hopefully be back out in Glen Burnie next spring to create more public art, he said. It’s a win-win for the students and the community — the students got paid, learned how to create public art from scratch and got to beautify their neighborhood, while the residents got to enjoy the art, he said. The county put about $1,500 into the project to pay the artists and cover the cost of supplies.
“People seem to like it a lot,” Klos said.