Back in the day, Pikesville Armory was the place for dances, weddings, bar mitzpahs and other special events, and at one time a political forum for U.S. presidential candidates was hosted there.
The now-vacant military complex of buildings and old stables situated on 14 acres at 610 Reisterstown Road has transitioned from the possession of Maryland National Guard to state surplus—a designation that makes it available to be acquired through a special process. Local organizations and residents want a say in how the Armory will be redeveloped.
Former county councilman Mel Mintz and former attorney and state delegate Howard Needle are leading the charge as co-founders of 1000 Friends of Pikesville, a group of 1,030-plus stakeholders founded three years ago to see a bold revitalization plan for the Reisterstown Road commercial district come to fruition. They want more involvement from the county.
Recognizing that the Armory will serve as a spark and creative anchor for revitalizing the area, 1000 Friends of Pikesville met Sept. 6 to get an update on future development use of the 14-acre property. District 11 legislators Sen. Bobby Zirkin and Delegates Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein and Shelly Hettleman, along with Councilwoman Vicki Almond, in whose district the Armory is located, spoke at the standing room only meeting held at Pikesville Library.
Last November the group delivered to county officials a 100-page report that promoted ideas such as turning the Armory into an arts center, Mintz reported. 1000 Friends members are looking for a financial and motivational boost from the county to fund and conduct a fabric study and to explore options, he said.
Mintz noted that the vision is especially enticing since the county is the only jurisdiction without an arts district. Appendices in the report support the viability for an arts center, he said.
Needle, the group’s president, said, “The most important property is the Armory. It has potential for being the gem, the magnet to bring Pikesville to life and to support shops and restaurants.”
He shared his vision for the Armory becoming a multiuse facility for the community with a stage for performances, basketball and soccer courts, classrooms and workspace for arts on the second and third floors, and open space for special occasions. Needle also proposed a new library, senior center, military museum and veteran housing. The millions that can be gained from selling the library and senior center could help fund the project, Needle said.
“But we need a study to make sure it’s a go.”
In April, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Vicki Almond announced that the Department of Planning would undertake a three-phase study of the Pikesville commercial district to develop recom-mendations for revitalizing the area.
Almond, who has a say in zoning for the property, said “It’s not my intention to build houses,” and she will “do what I can to make sure the county buys the Armory.”
Nancy Surosky, a representative from Kamenetz’s office, said he has been interested in acquiring the Armory but the process is “complicated.”
Suggestions from attendees included a sculpture garden, art gallery and community center. They also expressed concern about the lack of quality restaurants and businesses on the Reisterstown corridor. Someone also asked for a commitment that the property won’t become a strip shopping center.
Gloria Askin, an artist who makes jewelry and prints and who has lived in Pikesville since 1950, is hopeful. She called the art gallery a “brilliant idea.” Askin said, “Where art goes, business and success follows.”
Commission on Future Use of the Pikesville Armory
Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order on Sept. 5 establishing a Commission on the Future Use of the Pikesville Armory to review potential ways to utilize this important site. Zirkin will chair the 15-member commission.
The executive order authorizes that the commission’s membership will include representatives from 1000 Friends of Pikesville, Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pikesville Recreation Council, and Councilwoman Almond and surrounding community associations. The Governor will appoint three additional members.
The commission will explore options such as enhancing the arts, recreational opportunities and other ideas, Zirkin said. He intends to hold meetings around Pikesville which will be open and accessible to the general public for creative suggestions.
The commission must present its recommendations to the Governor no later than Oct. 1, 2018.
Zirkin said in a statement, “I am certain that we will emerge with a product that is exciting to the community.