Officials laud Savage station plan

MARC site near Anne Arundel County border would have residences, businesses


An ambitious plan to transform the bare, sprawling parking lot at the Savage MARC train station into a hub of residential and commercial activity got enthusiastic endorsement yesterday from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and a gathering of other state and Howard County officials.

At a news conference on the station lot, the officials and Phillip L. Ross, president of Petrie Ross Ventures of Annapolis, showed artists drawings of high-rise buildings surrounding fountain plazas lined with sidewalk cafes.

If the proposal were to become reality, it would mean a transformation of what is now an industrialized area near the Anne Arundel County line, bounded by highways and train tracks and serenaded by passing dump trucks.

"We intend to bring this parking lot to life," Ehrlich said, after telling a crowd that "we are standing on a gold mine."

The project, which would get under way in 2008 if all goes well, is seen by state and local officials as important to helping Howard and Anne Arundel counties prepare for an expected influx of defense-related workers at Fort Meade and the National Security Agency because of military base realignment.

The Savage station is just off Route 32, the prime highway connecting Columbia and Clarksville with the federal employment centers and Annapolis.

Two years ago, Howard County officials rezoned land around both the Dorsey and Savage train stations to transportation-oriented development, a new category intended to encourage exactly this kind of dense, mixed-use project along the U.S. 1 corridor. The zone requires 15 percent of the apartments be for moderate-income families.

"We have organized this to be very pedestrian-friendly," Ross said.

The plan calls for two high-rise residential towers containing a combined 260 apartments, 53,000 square feet of mostly convenience retail stores, two restaurants, 145,000 square feet of office space in two six-story buildings, a nine-story, 200-room hotel and five parking garages for 2,000 vehicles spread throughout the site.

It is a preliminary, conceptual plan that, for example, shows two 13-story residential towers, even though county height regulations limit buildings to 100 feet or about nine stories, according to county Planning Director Marsha McLaughlin, who also attended the event.

Petrie Ross project manager Matthew A. Lattin said the firm will comply with county standards once a plan is submitted.

The first task is to set a sale price on the 15-acre, state-owned parcel. Ross said the firm would like to expand the project if it also can buy an adjoining 20 acres now used for warehousing by the Boise Cascade Corp.

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Robert L. Flanagan, a former Howard County delegate, said the state got no offers in 2003 when it first advertised for private development around state-owned MARC and Metro train stations.

Last year, lobbyist and former delegate and Laurel Mayor Robert J. DiPietro said he suggested a transit-oriented development to Petrie Ross, a six-year-old firm that redevelops older shopping centers into mixed residential and commercial developments, such as Annapolis Towne Center at Parole.

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