Artillery to antiques and air quality Anne Arundel County: Gentrification of Fort Meade area grows with antique mall, EPA.

July 24, 1996

A YEAR HAS passed since the First U.S. Army ended its mission at Fort George G. Meade. The 9,000-acre base in western Anne Arundel County, which started as a World War I training camp, has begun its shift to other uses. While the process is far from complete, the increased civilianization of Fort Meade is bringing gentrification as well.

Consider two recent news items: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will build a $40 million science center, housing 70 laboratories, a library and offices at Fort Meade.

Meanwhile, a former Jamesway department store on Route 175 has reopened as an antique mall, with a capacity for 400 dealers.

These developments underscore the profound changes going on in and around Fort Meade. As the military mission of the once-important base diminishes, this huge reservation midway between Baltimore and Washington is becoming a magnet for other government agencies with good-paying jobs. This, in turn, strengthens the new nearby residential developments, such as Seven Oaks, which was built behind a one-time honky-tonk stretch of "Boomtown" bars and eateries.

Today's real "Boomtown" is inside Fort Meade -- in facilities such as the 140,000-square-foot EPA complex, which will be built on 18 acres at Route 175 and Mapes Road. Groundbreaking is scheduled for October; occupancy is expected by the end of 1998.

The new EPA facility will combine operations of laboratories currently located in Annapolis and Beltsville. The influx of new scientists will provide another injection of energy to the rapidly developing Odenton area.

As new families move in, they will support new services. In the 1970s and 1980s, conventional wisdom held that Odenton did not have a sufficient population to support a traditional regional shopping mall, given its proximity to Columbia, Annapolis, Laurel and Glen Burnie.

That thinking may have to be re-evaluated as Odenton's build-up chugs on. An antiques mall clearly hopes to draw shoppers from a wider geographic area. But its arrival near Fort Meade underscores just how much the base area has changed.

A few years ago, who would ever have thought about going antiquing around Fort Meade?

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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