DUNDALK, Md. - The amphitheater is out, and three popular chain restaurants may be in at the proposed Merritt Pavilion in Dundalk, the project’s developer said this week.
Leonard Weinberg II, principal at Vanguard Commercial Property Development, said Wednesday the company is close to securing contracts with Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
The Pavilion will replace the North Point Government Center, a county-owned property that costs taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars a year, Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. said.
“I think it’s a win-win,” said Olszewski, a Democrat who represents the area.
Officials also said the community center to be built about a mile from the Pavilion will be larger than originally planned.
County officials said this week the Dundalk Center will be more than 24,000 square feet, the second biggest recreational space in a Baltimore County community center. Original plans called for a 21,000 square foot community center.
Vanguard will also make a 25 percent contribution toward the cost of a new turf field at Merritt Point Park, about a mile away from the Pavilion. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the county will fund the remaining 75 percent of the field.
Meanwhile, an amphitheater originally proposed for the Pavilion, to be located at Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue, has been scrapped due to complaints from residents, Weinberg said.
Olszewski said the trio of well-known restaurants will prop up the local economy and give residents meal options that were previously unavailable.
“A lot of the time, they have to go to White Marsh,” Olszewski said.
But the project has been controversial, with some residents skeptical the businesses can succeed in the Pavilion. Others fear losing the green spaces that attracted them to Dundalk in the first place.
Karen Cruz, president of the Eastfield-Stanbrook Civic Association, said more than 3,700 people have signed a petition opposing the sale of the government center.
She said in an email the three restaurants named by Weinberg aren’t compatible with the neighborhood, adding residents would boycott the businesses.
“Vanguard would be taking away a valuable asset from the community and no commercial businesses can compensate for this loss of precious parkland,” Cruz said.
Weinberg said a public meeting on the project will be held Aug. 28 at Dundalk High School, and encouraged residents to attend.
“There have probably been 20 to 25 meetings over the last eight months on this project,” Weinberg said. “We’re looking forward to having good, open dialogue.”
Carolyn Jones, the president of the Greater Dundalk Alliance, said empty storefronts are problem throughout the community.
Merritt Park Shopping Center, which is across the street from where the Pavilion will be, is a prime example, Jones said. She said she’d like to see more businesses open there first.
“It just sort of makes you scratch your head,” Jones said.
Bob Staab, a former state delegate and member of the citizens group Dundalk United, estimated there well over a hundred vacant storefronts in the area. He doesn’t see how Merritt Pavilion will be any different.
“I will not believe it until I see it happen,” said Staab, former director of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks.
Weinberg countered he never would have named the restaurants if he weren’t confident about their future in Dundalk.
“If you drive down Merritt Drive, you’ll see a community that is underserved,” Weinberg said. “These restaurants wanted to come here, there just wasn’t a place to put them.”