Complex proposed at Savage MARC site

Developer envisions $175 million project of housing, business


An Annapolis developer is proposing a $175 million residential, retail, office and hotel complex on the parking lot of the Savage MARC train station along the Howard-Anne Arundel county line - just the kind of dense development local officials want to see in the U.S. 1 corridor.

The plan, proposed by Petrie Ross Ventures, would serve local and regional goals for providing more living and working spaces near Fort Meade and the National Security Agency as federal base realignments bring thousands of new jobs to the region in coming years.

The project would put pedestrian-friendly, urban-style communities on the 15-acre parking lot and encourage train use in a corner of Howard County that has long been targeted for upscale redevelopment.

The developer's plans for the station, located next to an industrial park off Route 32 near Dorsey Run Road, are to be announced at a news conference at the station today by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

If the Savage Towne Centre concept is accepted by state and county governments, the state-owned station parking lot would be the site of 260 apartments in two high-rise buildings, a hotel, two restaurants, 53,000 square feet of retail space, a 145,000-square-foot office building and a five-story parking garage for 1,000 vehicles, according to a state fact sheet.

In a news release issued yesterday, Ehrlich's office called the plan "a transit oriented development in a central growth area of the Baltimore-Washington Region ... slated to help meet the expanding job and population needs due to the pending [military base realignment]." A spokesman for Ehrlich declined further comment until today's news conference.

According to the fact sheet, state officials foresee construction starting in 2008. The work would be complete three years later.

"It's in an industrial park. It wouldn't bother me," said Jennifer Weaver, an 11-year Savage resident who helps organize the old mill town's annual spring festival. The station is across U.S. 1 from the residential portion of the town and Savage Mill, the redeveloped sailcloth factory that now hosts dozens of merchants and artists.

"It's not like it's right here in Savage," Weaver said.

The plan for Savage is the kind of project officials have promoted for mass-transit stations around the area, from the parking lot at the Owings Mills Metro station to other MARC stations between Baltimore and Washington.

Howard County officials rezoned land around two train stations in the county to a new category called Transit Oriented Development two years ago to encourage such proposals around transit hubs along the corridor.

"We're really excited that someone has taken an interest in the site," said Stephen W. Lafferty, deputy Howard County planning director.

Howard County Councilman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat who represents the area, said the land was rezoned "to allow a higher intensity of use," so people can "live there and jump on a train to go to work." The project could also help alleviate traffic congestion, Guzzone said.

Lafferty said the plan is "very conceptual" and first would have to pass muster with state officials, who would have to approve giving the firm control of the state's land. Once that happens, a specific plan would be submitted to the county for consideration.

"We're eager to see a transit-oriented development built," Lafferty said, but the county also wants "an integrated plan that creates a development where people can live and work" and which is tied to the train service.

A parking garage would have to be built first, he said, to provide parking while the other phases of the project are built.

The MARC Camden line between Baltimore and Washington carries an average of 4,300 people a day, with 540 of those riders using the Savage station, according to a state fact sheet.

Petrie Ross has been in business for six years and has redeveloped 2 million square feet of commercial space - mainly shopping centers, including Annapolis Towne Center at Parole and the Woodmore Town Centre at Landover.

Developments with access to public transit have cropped up around the country, thanks to growing demand from residents and businesses seeking compact, connected communities with a mix of uses, said Robert T. Dunphy, a senior resident fellow for transportation and infrastructure at the Washington-based Urban Land Institute.

As cities and states have invested more in public transit, "there's the need for transit agencies and the local governments to help reinforce those transit investments by putting people where they're close enough to transit to support it with fares," he said.

Developers are typically attracted by a chance to develop prime property where public transit is already in place.

Dunphy pointed to the Rosslyn-Balston corridor of the Washington Metro in Arlington County, Va., as a prime example of where transit development has been carefully planned for decades and has succeeded. Over three decades, about 20,000 new homes, 20 million square feet of new offices and the equivalent of two large regional shopping centers and hotels have sprouted along the Metro line, he said.

Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article

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