Sulphur Spring Road Development Acquires Liquor License

A restaurant and retail/office space is envisioned on two acres of undeveloped property on Sulphur Spring Road.

An overgrown stretch of Sulphur Spring Road, south of the train overpass that serves as a gateway to Arbutus, is one step closer to becoming a new restaurant and retail/office space development. Developer Steven Whalen has acquired a liquor license for the property.

In an Oct. 22 hearing, the Baltimore County Liquor Commission approved the transfer of a liquor license to Whalen from Lansdowne Liquor Locker, LLC, which operated the now-defunct Moondog Cafe at 2200 Hammonds Ferry Rd. in Lansdowne.

Whalen said he intends to use the liquor license for an upscale restaurant on a 2-acre lot on Sulphur Spring Road, between the train overpass and the tanning salon that formerly housed the Arbutus Branch Library at the corner of Benson Avenue.

"We had an opportunity to pick up a license from Liquor Locker, which had been foreclosed," Whalen said. "We're holding it until we can find a user for the license."

At an "impromptu meeting" with three members of Arbutus Business and Professional Association last week, Whalen unveiled a conceptual plan for the development. It is expected to include a 6,800 square-foot restaurant, and a two-story building with retail stores on the ground floor and office space on the second floor.

"This is a very preliminary sketch and is subject to revision both as to placement of the building or buildings and the proposed uses," he explained in an email, accompanying images of the development.

Whalen said that the design has not been submitted to Baltimore County officials or vetted by any community groups, and represents an early stage in the development process.

The plans feature a development with two traffic entry points from Sulphur Spring Road. The far side of the property abuts Old Sulphur Spring Road, but Whalen said that traffic is not expected to use the old route that used to cross the Amtrak and CSX tracks and connected to central Arbutus.

The footprint of the development includes John's Auto Service, which has been in business on Old Sulphur Spring Road for more than 50 years.

Whalen said that he had wanted the parcel of property for a long time, but the owners of the repair shop weren't interested in selling until recently.

He said the repair shop owner approached him about selling the property several months ago.

Whalen said he has the property under contract and expects to strike a more permanent deal with the owners by the end of the year.

Whalen said he has not contracted with any restaurant yet. "We haven't talked with anybody who would like to have a restaurant there," he said.

Deborah L. SeBour October 24, 2012 at 02:16 PM
This is great news for Arbutus!
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 24, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I want to thank Bruce Goldfarb for accurately reflecting the situation with our property on Sulphur Spring Road in Arbutus. Please note that to date we have had no conversations with any restaurant chains or owners; it's simply too early in the process. We expect that we will be meeting numerous times with community folks, the ABPA, and County officials prior to formally submitting a development plan to Baltimore County. The entire parcel has business (BL) zoning and we will process our application thru the standard development review process. No PUD request will be necessary. -- Steve Whalen
number9dream October 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Arbutus Improvement Association October 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Mr. Whalen, The Arbutus Improvement Association is in hopes you will included us in your conversations and we would like to have open communications with you on your projects. I am sure there are other interested associations in our community who would also be interested in your plans. --- Nikki Marlatt-Young (AIA President)
Stiffy McDermott October 24, 2012 at 02:53 PM
As long as it's not a Hip Hop Fish and Chicken I think this would be a good thing.
J Smith October 24, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I do not believe this is great news for Arbutus. There is very little open space remaining in Arbutus and adding another shopping center will only lead to more traffic and congestion on Sulphur Spring Road. Is there any reason why this land can't be preserved and made into a park? Also, shouldn't the Halethorpe Improvement Association be included in the conversation?
al walker October 24, 2012 at 05:02 PM
area needs to focus more on buildings already in place. why build more you cant take care of the ones you have now. talk about destroying a community. you people can kiss your small town good bye. no one fighted the walmart going up now all i see is people complaining about it. what do they think is going to happen when something else goes up?
Deborah L. SeBour October 24, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I feel that Arbutus has been neglegted for a very long time. The County is finally spending money to address issues such as road improvements, traffic lights and streetscapes, which not only improve, but beautify our area. It's time for business owners to step up and bring better business to Arbutus. I would love to see a really nice sit down restaurant with good food and character. Improving our business district, keeps property values from dropping and makes the community much more enjoyable.
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 24, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Just want to assure Ms Marlatt-Young & Mr Smith that we will work closely w both the AIA and Halethorpe associations, as well as ABPA and other interested groups. We have in fact had discussions w HIA numerous times re this parcel in the past & have no intention of excluding them from the current conversation. The property's main access is located at the signalized intersection of Sulphur Spring & Waelchli which should facilitate safer traffic movement. The mixed use nature of the development, spread among professional office, community retail, & restaurant also helps diffuse timing of traffic impact. There is a significant redevelopment aspect to this proposal. We will be replacing John's Auto, which, while it's a longtime Arbutus vehicle repair service, will never win any community beautification awards, and have already razed the derelict house on Old Sulphur Spring next to the auto shop. Both clearly qualify as redevelopment upgrades. We're committed to doing an architecturally attractive project providing needed community services to the local neighborhood and promise to work closely with both community folks, ABPA and the County to do the project right. Anyone wishing to discuss the project in more detail may call me @ 410.747.2900. Thanks. Steve Whalen
Chuck October 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I will be sorry to see Mr. Giles shop close. I appreciate honest and prompt service to my vehicles over an attractive building. Ms. SeBour, what's so wrong with Mike's, Paul's, Leon's & Sorrento's other than they are being innudated by commuter traffic in the afternoon and evening ? An Arbutus Promenade would be another nail in the coffin for East Drive business.
Chuck October 24, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Oh, and a big thanks to Bruce for reporting this.
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 25, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Well, Chuck, it's easy to jump to unwarranted conclusions, but this project will be nothing like the Promenade in scale, location or scope. At less than 30,000 sq feet and only 1 and 2 stories, it's sized for the Arbutus community and designed to function comfortably within the existing traffic network. Mr Giles provided excellent repair service for many years but for personal reasons he's now decided to call it a career. Things change; time moves on. Competition keeps us all on our toes. Whalen Properties is committed to the most upscale professional office space, community retail and restaurant use that the Arbutus market can realistically support. That, in turn, provides real motivation for everyone in this market to remain competitive. We offer no apologies for trying to make things better. If we didn't think Arbutus were an attractive market w real upside potential, we'd never commit to such a significant investment there. Thanks for your comments. Steve Whalen
Joe October 25, 2012 at 04:55 PM
How many liquor licenses does one man get in this county that are not destined for establishments that are open? Whalen hold 3 I believe for his Promenade and it is years away if ever. Connection with government are his stock in trade.
Joe October 25, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Why didn;t you develop the property along your driveway whe you had the opportunity to buy and develop it? You worked to preserved it so YOU would not live near your own developments. YOU didn't want the added traffic near Fox Hall Farm did you?
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 25, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Well, Joe, you'd be wrong on two counts. Right on my driveway, literally, I bought and developed the 84 acres owned by Dr Bob Healy, now known as Foxhall Farm. 154 houses, of which 61 are cluster homes and the balance are single family. In my FRONT yard. Sorry to disappoint you, Joe. I did not own the other parcel on Foxhall Farm Rd @ S. Rolling, 34 acres known as Manorvale Farm. I worked for the owners, the Mears family, and did what they specifically instructed me to do,. They were prepared to develop it if the State would not pay a reasonable price within shouting distance of fair market value. Fortunately, w assistance from Baltimore County, we were able to structure a deal to add it to Patapsco Vslley State Park. Their decision, not mine.
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 25, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Joe, we actually own 4 licenses in the First District designated for the Promenade; this new license is in the 13th District for use at our Sulphur Spring Road development. Unfortunately, each license is restricted to its own district; they are not interchangeable. I detest the County's current licensing system. It is both archaic and anticompetitive. We will have nearly $425,000 tied up in licenses pending eventual development and it makes no sense whatever, as compared w, say, Howard County where licenses have no resale value and you simply pay HoCo about a grand for the application fee. So, if you intend to do a restaurant project in Baltimore County, you need to buy the licenses upfront as they become available or you may have a building up and ready to go but no restaurateur willing to sign up because no license was available for purchase. I think it's a bad system from start to finish. It's clearly restricted our restaurant options here versus neighboring jurisdictions. Steve Whalen
Cindy Sherman October 25, 2012 at 07:31 PM
You may be entering into a world Mr. Whalen that doesn't want new buildings and businesses. The area of Arbutus, Relay, and Halethorpe seem to be a place like no other. Yes changes are needed and it seems they do that all on their own. How does it make you feel knowing your plans could possibly hurt that small community?. Do you know how long Pauls, Leons, and Sorrentos have been there? Those three alone are what you think of when you hear someone say Arbutus.
Bclass October 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I'm sorry, but I have to say that none of the restaurants currently in Arbutus appeal to me. I liked Larry's, but that's gone. Sorrento is okay for pizza and cheesesteaks, but only as takeout. I've been to DiPaolo's once, and had a good burger. I usually end up in Ellicott City if I want to eat out. There are simply more and better choices. I think this is a case that the competition may force the existing businesses to better their own product, much like Wegmans does when it enters a market.
al walker October 26, 2012 at 12:07 AM
the area cant rent space in the buildings they have now. what makes anyone think building a two story building is going to change that. you can dress an old guy up to look nice but if the heart isnt good well it means nothing.
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 26, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Cindy, what did Leon do when Paul's arrived? What did they both do when Sorrento's showed up? No one should be guaranteed any exclusives in our economic system. Our vision for a restaurant is more upscale than anything existing in Arbutus today, bringing potential actually to expand the market. Having a broader spectrum of offerings can be the rising tide hopefully raising all the boats. But if a bit of new competition puts a little fear in the existing cast of characters and induces them to upgrade their own enterprises to remain attractive, I happen to think that's a good thing. BClass hit the nail squarely on the head. Thanks for the comments to both of you. Steve Whalen
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 26, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Al, I think the Arbutus market is nicely situated to take advantage of the MARC train station, I-95 access, and the Beltway, but the currently available buildings in 21227, especially the professional offices in which Whalen Properties specializes, are crap. I was going to use a more technical real estate term like "substandard" or "Class C," but, the truth is, that what little office space exists now is barely above the junk category. As you sow in this business, so shall you reap. We're not talking about a large project, only 10,000 sf of professional office, probably 5-7 users at most, but the chance of attracting good tenants with Arbutus' current office inventory is slim at best. The same with our proposed retail, again at roughly 10,000 sf. We're not going to inundate the market, we want to do a nicer, higher-end design that can attract a small number of quality tenants who wouldn't even consider Arbutus now. We did the same thing on Frederick Road in Catonsville in the mid-80s thru the mid-90s. It worked quite successfully, including inducing then-current building owners to renovate their office offerings to remain competitive. This is the same concept, just on a smaller scale. Steve Whalen
Cindy Sherman October 26, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Lets stop and really think about this for a second, you want to upsale an old town by building one new place to eat. Ask yourself why didn't Ritas make it? Lets face it the Arbutus area doesn't house "upscale" homeowners. There are many issues of rats, over grown yards, rental housing in the area is grown rapid, store owners closing up shop early because the town is dead after 9pm during the week. You are gambling and the odds do not look so good for you. I wish you luck but I am sure that town isn't or should I say will not go down with out a fight. Still a lot of old timers living in the area. Well respected through out.
Cindy Sherman October 26, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Your failing to realize we are talking about Arbutus. Not Catonsville. The traffic from the Marc Train do nothing but take up parking in the area. They get in their cars and leave after exiting the train. No one in the downtown area has had more customers because of it. Just the opposite happen business died due to the traffic of the Train.
Nikki Marlatt-Young October 26, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Mr. Whalen, I know this is short notice but I invite you to attend the The Arbutus Improvement Association Meeting this Sunday at 7pm at Leon's in his downstairs banquet hall. It would really help community residence understand your plans for the property. Please let me know if you will be attending so I can be sure to add you to the agenda. Thank you so much and I hope you accept the invite. ~ Nikki Marlatt-Young
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 26, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Wow, Cindy, you're obviously from the "glass is half empty" school. Arbutus isn't Ruxton, and we're not talking about Ruth's Chris, but golly, we can certainly do something better than what's there now. Progress happens one small step at a time in a small town and I'm willing to invest the dollars to give it a try on a reasonable scale. One restaurant won't "turn the town around" but it can at least nudge it in the right direction. And the challenge is to find a way to turn those MARC commuters into customers, and better yet, residents if possible. Not claiming it will be easy but it is surely worth some effort to attempt to capitalize on it. There aren't many business districts that die because they got more traffic. It's normally just the opposite. But some very interesting issues you've thrown out for all of us to ponder. Thanks again for your comments. Steve Whalen
Stephen W Whalen Jr October 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Nikki -- you'll get me in big trouble w my "boss" for leaving home on a Sunday at 7 PM, but I will try to make it. Again, understand that we are VERY early on in the process but I am happy to meet w whomever is interested just to discuss where we are, and what our preliminary plans -- subject to change -- look like right now. There's no plan on paper other than the concept which Bruce ran w the Patch article above. I probably can't confirm for sure, Nikki, til early Sunday afternoon. I'll put the burden on you to call me btwn 1:30-2:30 pm Sunday afternoon to confirm -- on my cell, not my office number. I think you have my cell phone from my voicemail to you a couple days ago? Leave a message and a callback number if you don't get me directly on Sunday. Thank you, ma'am! Steve Whalen
Nikki Marlatt-Young October 26, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Trust me when I say its truly no burden to call & confirm. I'm sure there are a few that can agree I am always on top of hunting them down to attend a meeting. :) I hope your "boss" would appreciate I pay a babysitter at least 3 times a month to attend not only the AIA meetings but other community meetings such as WPCRO and HIA as well. I do however understand if you are unable, I just feel its important to try and calm the storm. People do better when they understand or have at least been shown someone cares enough to speak with them directly. Thanks so much!
Paul Dongarra October 28, 2012 at 01:02 AM
I think it bears to mention that Mr. Whalen actually had the John's Auto Service property up zoned during the recent CZMP. That's right he petitioned to have land up-zoned that he didn't own. Naturally, Councilperson Quirk did what Mr. Whalen wanted. Whalen will say he doesn't give money to the councilperson. But his daughter, employees, personal fitness instructor, lawyers, etc. etc all do. Shame on Mr. Whalen for how he goes about conducting his business manipulating our system to his benefit. I'd suggest that Mr. Goldfarb give me a call so that I can put him in touch with the people needed to give the community the whole story of this situation.
Chuck October 28, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Thank You for bringing this to light, Mr. Dongarra.
Sara January 31, 2014 at 07:01 PM
Are there any current updates to this project? I am very interested to see what shops/restaurant are planned. We NEED some good anchor stores, so I am very excited for the plans. Sad the trees need to be cut down though. Very much looking forward to the final outcome.


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