Business keys to BWI area mapped Nonprofit agency offers its vision statment

April 04, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Over the next decade, a nonprofit development agency will push for pro-business zoning laws, completion of Route 32 and a new midfield cargo complex as the keys to bringing more business into the area around Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The BWI Business Partnership has come out with a 16-page vision statement for the 80-square-mile business district around the airport saying it's high time for a strategic plan to guide development.

BWI is one of the fastest-growing airports in the nation, and property in Anne Arundel and Howard counties abutting it includes 2,500 businesses and 150,000 employees. Until this month, no one had a single long-range plan to make even more happen.

"Given how dynamic this area is right now, we really thought that was necessary," said Neil M. Shpritz, executive director of the partnership and an economic analyst who wrote the report.

It represents 18 months of work by a 15-member committee of representatives from the association, the airport, the counties and the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.

The report refers to BWI as the "Business District centerpiece" and "the major economic engine" driving growth in the area. But it's not the only force shaping the future, the report says.

The defense industry, especially the National Security Agency, the largest single employee in the district; a growing regional transportation network; and a burgeoning warehouse and distribution system are important, too, it says.

While the mainstay of the district has been defense and electronics industries, that is likely to change, the report says.

"The defense downsizing has really caused a fundamental change of the area," Shpritz said.

Over the past 10 years, as defense corporations have reduced staffs and changed focus, the economic base of the area has become a mix of telecommunications companies, warehouses, processing and administrative offices.

The report urges that this trend be encouraged by rewriting zoning codes and rules to make it easier for developers to get permits and to build in the district.

The report boasts of the interstate, rail and other transportation infrastructure in the district as unparalleled but urges additions to it, including light rail connections from the airport to Baltimore and Washington, improvement of secondary roads around the airport district and, most emphatically, completion of Route 32.

"The currently existing situation of a completed highway with a 1 1/2 -mile gap in its most heavily traveled portion is nonsensical and unacceptable if we are to even approach optimum economic benefit," the report says.

While the highway has been widened in both Anne Arundel and Howard counties, Route 32 around the Fort Meade/NSA campus remains a two-lane road.

The report calls for additional highway improvements to make it easier and safer to get from the District of Columbia to BWI.

The report also argues for construction of the $58 million cargo complex that the Maryland Aviation Administration wants to build at BWI.

The air freight industry is a $64 billion a year business worldwide. And although the explosive growth of the 1980s has slowed, the tTC industry is expected to continue to grow by 6 percent to 7 percent a year.

BWI now has about 300,000 square feet of space for cargo, with only 5,000 square feet available for new tenants.

The airport's 20-year plans, supported by the Partnership, calls for four new, 60,000-square foot cargo buildings to be in the midfield complex by 2015. The airport wants to construct two buildings now and others later.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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