The shoreline in Essex, Maryland.
The shoreline in Essex, Maryland. Credit: Jason Knauer

It was brainstormed back in 2021 at the Baltimore County Executive’s office, and this summer “Essex Reimagined” is Baltimore County’s first place-based initiative that is starting to bear fruit.

New sidewalks are going in on Eastern Boulevard, a new ball field is in the works for Renaissance Park, and new hires are serving the community.

Place-based initiatives are designed to leverage cross-departmental collaboration and dedicate concentrated resources to support a community’s recovery while combating these challenges, according to the county.

Their effort is being funded by $3 million secured from the federal American Rescue Plan, which was passed in order to help America deal with the pandemic. A small part of Middle River — from the Hawthorne and Middlesex neighborhoods — may also be included in the revitalization.

Due to requirements of the federal funding, most of the work will be done in the 21221 zip code area. There are two tracks to the revitalization: an overarching “Essex Reimagined” program, as well as an accompanying, separately funded, commercial revitalization effort to support Eastern Boulevard business.

Essex Reimagined is thinking big.

“That’s all-encompassing, focused on equity, opportunity, public safety, economic revitalization, public health, education–very broad,”  said Tucker Cavanagh, Essex Initiative Coordinator.

Cavanaugh said Essex has been historically underserved, and was also hit hard by COVID-19, but noted that it is positioned to be an excellent location for revitalization.

“There’s assets to pull on,” he said. “Rocky Point Park is an incredible asset. There’s two airports very nearby. There are, I think, eight yacht clubs. There’s miles and miles of waterfront opening out to the Bay.”

Reinvigorating the community is taking place on two timelines. By 2025, the county wants the projects from the Essex Reimagined effort to be completed. But a steering committee has been created for the community’s separately-funded commercial revitalization, which is being spearheaded by the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

“They’re working on taking that steering committee and developing a community development organization with subcommittees,” Cavanagh said. Those subcommittees will focus on events, development, branding, and funding efforts, among other initiatives.

The board for that organization hasn’t been created yet, but signs of change are noticeable in Essex. On Eastern Boulevard sidewalks are going in. Tree planting will accompany those walkways in the fall,  giving them a better chance to take root successfully.

At least two new positions have come from the federal funding too. A social worker is now available to help residents at the local library, and, Cavanagh said, a position was added to the county’s health, and human services departments.

The ribbon cutting for the new Renaissance Park ballfield was last fall. The county has high hopes its availability will add another community asset for athletes both in and out of the area.

“It would be a great recreational space for folks in the area, but also attract tournaments and travel teams–sports tourism,” Cavanagh said.

Essex Reimagined is an evolving effort. The county is being careful to include residents in the plans, and residents are responding. In partnership with local schools, the county held a Community Connections Fair this past May where over 1,000 people attended, Cavanagh said. Another fair is planned for this fall.

Currently there is also a community survey underway where residents can give input, and Cavanagh said a door-knocking campaign may be in the future too.

However Essex is ultimately reimagined, it is a group effort. The community, burdened by crime and other issues, is looking to make its tomorrow look a lot different from its past. And that takes teamwork.

“We have an ongoing dialogue and relationship with the community,” Cavanagh emphasized.

2 replies on “Eastern Boulevard facelift continues as ‘Essex Reimagined’ initiative takes shape”

  1. I like Essex it was a nice quiet community. But if Johnny o and are harder and tax dollars think that by putting a ballpark in and planning a few trees for $3 million dollars is going to revitalize Essex they’re sadly mistaken. When you get off 695 ramp for the Essex exit you getting nauseated by the smell of s***. If they want to revitalize Essex maybe they should address that issue first !?!?!!?!🤔😎🤔😎🤔😎

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