Housing hot spot is closer to reality

Developers clearing away Town Center building to make room for homes


September 01, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Burgeoning residential development is under way in Columbia's Town Center, as a Sterrett Place office building is being demolished to make way for a high-rise and a nearby upscale condominium complex is approaching completion.

The office building that once included a Bennigan's restaurant is scheduled to be fully demolished by next month in preparation for residents to begin moving into the adjacent Ryland Homes condominiums in December, said Dennis W. Miller, a Rouse Co. vice president and general manager of Columbia.

Miller said the high-rise deal is in negotiations and would not disclose further details about the development. "I expect there will be a high-rise on that site sometime in the near future," he said.

The site has been slated for a building with commercial and residential use, and Miller said the advertisements that appeared in local newspapers earlier this year for Altaire on the Lake are no longer applicable. That builder - whose ads boasted a 25-story tower of luxury condominiums and offices, a rooftop pool and spa and $1 million penthouses - will not be constructing the high-rise, he said.

Adjacent to where the high-rise will be built near Lake Kittamaqundi, Lakeside at Town Center is nearing completion on the site that used to house the General Cinema. Nearly all of the 48 condominiums have been sold, with two-bedroom, two-bathroom units beginning at $394,990. A 1,990-square-foot, three-bedroom unit sells for $484,990. The building also includes 96 underground parking spaces.

Judith Britton, community sales manager for Ryland Homes, said she expects the building to be sold out by the time residents start moving in.

"The demand in Columbia has always been high," she said. "It's still a great place to live and an excellent place to own real estate."

Two other residential developments are in progress in Town Center.

By The Mall in Columbia, the Evergreens at Columbia Town Center, a 156-unit "active adult" apartment complex for those ages 55 and older, is to be completed by January. Nearby, people are living in the townhouses at Governor's Grant, which is sold out and will have 127 homes when completed in February or March.

As more residents move into Town Center, which has a population of 4,265, county leaders are trying to make the downtown area a more pedestrian-friendly and active urban center.

Preliminary plans are in progress to transform Little Patuxent Parkway - which loops around the mall and acts as a barrier to attractions on the other side of the mall - into a main street atmosphere with on-street parking and pedestrian walkways linking commercial and residential areas.

Commercial development is also slated for land near the Merriweather Post Pavilion. On the 51-acre, crescent-shaped property behind Symphony Woods, which surrounds the 9-acre pavilion site and includes the venue's parking area, Rouse is proposing to build offices and shops that could incorporate big-box stores.

After agreeing to be acquired by Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. last month, Rouse officials said they plan to go forward with those development plans. However, it is unclear whether General Growth - whose interests primarily lie with shopping centers - will continue those plans.

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