Owings Mills lease OK'd

State board approves town center deal, clears way for new developers

Plans languished for 2 years

Master agreement to be next step for development near the Metro station

October 03, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved yesterday a lease paving the way for two Baltimore County developers to take over the troubled $220 million Owings Mills Town Center project.

Now the new developers, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and David S. Brown Enterprises, must negotiate a master development agreement for the property with the state and county.

The previous contractor, LCOR Development Co. of Berwyn, Pa., failed to sign a ground lease or a master development agreement in the past two years.

State and county officials say the change in developers will not alter the shape of the project, which is intended to be a centerpiece for the rapidly growing Owings Mills community in northwest Baltimore County. The town center plan would put retail space, residences, a hotel and public buildings on a 46-acre parking lot next to the Owings Mills Metro station.

The master development agreement would spell out the proportions of public and private uses for the land, the design guidelines, the financial commitments of the state, county and developers, and other legal issues, said county spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

The county and state have committed about $13 million each for infrastructure and a parking garage.

The county will also spend about $16.7 million to build a library and a branch of the Community College of Baltimore County.

Under the agreement approved yesterday, the developers can lease the state-owned land for 99 years, for an annual payment of $500,000 beginning in 2007. The amount would increase by 2 percent a year beginning in 2008.

Although the state and county went through a bidding process to select LCOR two years ago, a clause in the contract allowed the company to select its own replacement if it chose to drop out.

Sam Minnitte, the director of real estate development for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the state could have rejected LCOR's choice of developer, but then all of the preliminary work on the project that had been completed over the past two years would have been lost.

Minnitte said the state made sure the new developers would hold to the project concept, could come to financial terms with the state and county and had the requisite experience to complete such a complicated job.

Brown was one of the losing bidders on the initial contract in 2000, and LCOR indicated when it won the project that it would use Whiting-Turner's services.

Brown and Whiting-Turner officials did not return phone calls yesterday. An LCOR spokesman said the company would wait to comment on the development.

The County Council must approve the master development agreement, and the project is subject to normal county public hearings. The Board of Public Works also must give final approval before the developers can move forward.

If everything goes smoothly, construction on the project could begin next year, Armacost said.

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