Owings Mills transit hub seeks growth Leasing air rights at Metro lot proposed for development

Increase in ridership seen

Glendening commits $500,000 to study station idea

January 29, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

State transportation officials are embarking on a plan to turn air into cash, starting at the Owings Mills Metro station.

They hope to offer the 37-acre, state-owned parking lot surrounding the subway station for development of offices, stores and even condos, while retaining ownership and leasing "air rights." The plan is a prototype for a broad, new push to make better use of transit centers while generating revenue and attracting more riders.

"The principle is, anywhere people congregate, either in their cars or on foot, has potential for development," said Sandy Apgar, a real estate consultant who chairs an advisory committee to the state Department of Transportation. He said the plan "illustrates a way of thinking that goes well beyond traditional transportation planning and construction."

The Baltimore-area plan is similar to one that has been successful along Washington's subway line.

For years, government planners have worked to concentrate development at or near the Washington system's suburban stations. In fact, one Bethesda office tower is known as the Air Rights Building, said Maryland Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead.

The benefit to the transit system, in Washington or Baltimore: Increased ridership, from employees in new jobs near a station and from those who live in nearby developments. By leasing air rights -- the property rights to the space above a piece of land or a building -- the government also could reap rental payments from private developers.

With that possibility in mind, the Glendening administration is budgeting $500,000 to explore developing the lot at the Owings Mills station.

"We're not looking to develop anything tomorrow," said Ken Goon, director of planning and programming for the Mass Transit Administration. "It might be 20 years from now when you might have a combination of office buildings, some commercial, some residential maybe."

Mr. Goon said the initial funding would be used to study infrastructure issues, such as the need for more access roads or water and sewer lines. Development would be gradual, taking cues from market demand, he added.

He said a parking garage likely would be built for drivers who leave their cars and take the train. An MTA spokesman said about 3,200 riders a day board the train at the Owings Mills station, which opened in 1987.

Bill Hughey, a Baltimore County government planner for the Owings Mills area, said development at the subway station would be a good idea because it is an "underutilized resource." Offices, with accompanying stores and restaurants, likely would be successful there, as would "vertical" housing, he said.

"It's definitely consistent with what Owings Mills is about," he said, noting the area's designation by Baltimore County as a growth center.

He said transportation officials should consider a similar plan for the smaller Old Court subway station near Pikesville.

Mr. Winstead, the transportation secretary, pointed to a project already under way as an effort to make transit stations into destinations in their own right.

Nearly $2 million is being spent to build a day care center for up to 100 children and a police substation next to the Reisterstown Road Plaza Metro stop. The day care center will be built by the MTA, which will lease it to the city or a child-care provider.

The $500,000 to study development at the Owings Mills station was among new projects totaling $500 million announced last week by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Those projects are in the administration's $5.4 billion plan for transportation construction statewide from 1996 through 2001.

The Owings Mills study would begin after July 1.

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