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The proposed Merritt Pavilion project would be built at the site of the North Point Government Center. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Council approves Merritt Pavilion moving forward

Review of the planned unit development for Vanguard Commercial Development Inc.’s proposed Merritt Pavilion project in Dundalk will move forward.

The Baltimore County Council gave a key approval on Monday night for the mixed-use project, planned for 7701 Wise Ave., to begin the public review process. A planned unit development approval is needed to build retail on the site that has served as a recreation hub in the community.

“Right now, we have an obsolete building that sooner or later will be out of use. The taxpayers, at no expense, will get a community center that’s probably valued between $4 [million] and $5 million, and all the programs that are in the [current] building will be taken care of,” said Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who represents the area. “They’re trying to attract some national retailers who we, a lot of people in our district, have to drive to White Marsh to patronize.”

The company has proposed building restaurant and retail space on 15 acres of county-owned property it was selected to purchase late last year. The developer has also agreed to build a recreation center and improve ball fields on the rest of the nearly 28-acre site.

At the same time last year, the county also approved selling land that is home to the Towson Fire Station and a Public Works facility to a private developer. Plans for that parcel of land involve developing it as a shopping center with a Royal Farms store. The county also approved the sale of a former police substation in Randallstown.

Olszewski said he supports the Dundalk project because the building is currently costing taxpayers money, while the new development would result in new property and income tax revenues.

He dismissed concerns raised by residents about the amount of vacant retail space already in the area as well as doubts about whether there is sufficient demand. Olszewski said he didn’t think Vanguard would be spending millions of dollars on the project if the company didn’t think there was a market.

“Look, there’s vacant retail stores all throughout Baltimore County. We had a recession. We’re coming out of the recession,” Olszewski said.

A call seeking comment from Vanguard was not immediately returned.

Amy Menzer, executive director of the community development group Dundalk Renaissance Corp., said her group didn’t want to comment on the project beyond a statement it released when Vanguard was selected by the county to purchase the property. The statement praises the proposed development because it would result in a new recreation center being built on the property while also leading to more commercial development.

“The Dundalk Renaissance Corporation is committed to the advancement of commercial and residential opportunities for the citizens of Dundalk and to seeking reinvestment that attracts the next generation of Dundalk residents. DRC believes the sale of the North Point Government Center to Vanguard Commercial Development Inc. is a positive outcome for those who live, work, shop and play in our community,” the statement reads.