Smart growth in Owings Mills

Town center: Metro station could serve as focal point for a mixed-use Main Street for growth area.

March 03, 2000

OWINGS MILLS doesn't have a heart. It has got businesses, retail stores and townhouses and condos, but what's lacking is a central focus. It needs a Main Street.

There are already 34,000 residents in the Northwest Baltimore County community, with another 40,000 expected before build-out is completed in this designated growth center. But aside from a cookie-cutter indoor mall, there's no focal point.

Now Baltimore County officials want to transform the Owings Mills Metro station into the town's Main Street. Along this tree-lined boulevard would be a library, a community college, a hotel and retail shops on the first floor of four-story buildings with residents living on the upper levels.

All this would be close to the Metro station, which is used by 1.2 million passengers each year. Replacing the Metro parking lots would be multi-story garages open to the public without charge.

The county's concept of a town center already has drawn interest from more than 100 developers. But to make this plan work, state and county governments must first put up money for the garages, the streets and utility lines.

That means a $2 million contribution from the state this year -- and $13 million overall -- matched by the county.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening should not hesitate to find the cash. This project symbolizes his Smart Growth philosophy.

The plan would create a "density center" with apartments, shops, businesses and lots of foot traffic, thanks to the Metro station. Transit riders could drop off dry cleaning, buy a birthday card or pick up food on the way home. It would give many folks a sense of community.

The rewards would be enormous. Mass transit could begin to fulfill some of its untapped potential as the new Main Street throbs with activity day and night, weekdays and weekends. Owings Mills would finally have a heart.

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