Pa. firm leaves Metro project

Balto. County partnership to take over development near Owings Mills station

$220 million centerpiece

Whiting-Turner, Brown seek 99-year state lease

October 02, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

LCOR, the company Baltimore County officials had selected to construct a $220 million centerpiece development next to the Owings Mills Metro Station, has withdrawn from the long-delayed project and been replaced by a partnership of two local companies.

Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Howard Brown Construction Co. have formed a development group, Owings Mills Transit LLC, which will go before the state Board of Public Works today to try to obtain a 99-year lease to build the project. If the board approves, it will help the project move forward.

LCOR Development Co. of Pennsylvania missed several contract deadlines last winter and spring, delaying construction in the 46-acre Metro station parking lot. It told the county recently that it no longer wishes to be involved in the project on Painters Mill Road near Interstate 795, officials said yesterday.

Owings Mills Transit LLC will maintain LCOR's plans for the most part. They call for a 100-room hotel, stores, restaurants and 450 apartments and townhouses, library and an education building -- all arranged around a traditional town square.

"The basic concept is the same -- a Main Street with some civic space and a mixture of shops, office space and residences," said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the county.

While nearly all concerned are pleased that Baltimore County developers have been secured for the station project, some have concerns about the scope of the development -- how much space would be allocated for a planned library and educational center and how the project would affect existing businesses and infrastructure.

One state delegate fears that the public hasn't had enough say in the plans and has written the board, composed of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.

Del. Dan K. Morhaim, who represents the area, has asked the board to postpone any decision on the lease because he believes there has been a lack of public input. "Once you have a 99-year lease, it's hard to take things back," Morhaim said.

However, Armacost said the lease would be null and void if the developer's plans aren't approved by the County Council. She said any review of the project would include public hearings on the plans.

County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, who represents the area, said, "I think we should wait until government can do this right.

"I think we should be building something that's truly a centerpiece for Owings Mills, something that won't compete with the mall and other local businesses," McIntire said.

He and others have said the county has decided to dedicate more public space to a county library and for a building for the Community College of Baltimore County, a move that they applaud.

One of the concerns with plans presented by LCOR was the size and number of public buildings.

McIntire and Morhaim are among those still concerned about how much space would be rented to businesses and the impact new housing would have on crowded schools.

Owings Mills Transit LLC has not presented its concept plans, Armacost said. But residents and officials are hopeful the public's input will be more valuable to a local company.

"The local developers can't afford for this project not to be good," said Del. Robert A. Zirkin, whose district includes the station. "They have something at stake."

Although Howard Brown made no fans in preservationist circles for his work on the Samuel Owings House, which he razed for an office building, he and Willard Hackerman, head of Whiting-Turner, are known for quality projects.

"Unless we want to preserve blacktop on the Metro site, I don't see any potential problems with this group," said Vicki L. Almond, who was a member of the Committee to Save the Samuel Owings House and now is president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council.

"I'm just glad it's a local developer that's going to build it and that it's going to get done."

If the board approves the Owings Mills Transit LLC request today, its lease payment is expected to be $500,000 annually beginning in 2007, with the amount increasing by 2 percent a year beginning in 2008.

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