Odenton station complex planned

Homes, shopping, hotel set for defense boom

October 17, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,Sun reporter

In the latest major real estate project sparked by the boom in Maryland's national security sector, state leaders announced yesterday a $150 million complex of homes, offices and shops and a hotel next to the Odenton MARC train station that would be the cornerstone of a regional town center.

On 24 acres now owned by the state and Anne Arundel County, three developers would also build two public parking garages totaling 3,500 spaces to ease notorious crowding at the station.

Another 1,245 outdoor parking spaces would be available at the proposed Odenton Town Square, which will include 70,000 square feet of retail space, the hotel of 90 to 120 rooms, 572 apartments and condominiums, 250 townhouses and five single-family homes.

State and local leaders said the project would expand mass transit options and provide a high-density area of housing and retail in the face of the military base realignment and closure process, also known as BRAC. At least 20,000 defense jobs are expected to arrive over the next five years at Fort Meade.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who two months ago announced a similar $175 million residential-retail town center at the nearby Savage MARC station on the Howard County-Anne Arundel line, yesterday called "transit-oriented development" the wave of the future.

"We do not believe in sprawl. We do not believe in inappropriate development," Ehrlich, a Republican, said yesterday in a news conference at the Odenton station. He praised this development as "a great model for future success in Maryland."

Construction on the town square project is slated to begin by 2008 and be complete by the time the largest contingent of jobs - 4,000 workers from the Defense Information Systems Agency in Northern Virginia - finishes relocating to the Army post in western Anne Arundel County.

Economists and growth experts estimate that 40,000 to 60,000 defense-related jobs will arrive over the next decade in Maryland - from Bethesda and Fort Meade to Aberdeen - because of BRAC.

The influx of jobs is expected to spur a tidal wave of development, such as the proposed 1,600-house Arundel Preserve in Laurel and the transformation of land on Laurel Park property into a major shopping-entertainment center.

BRAC-related growth across Maryland will cost the state and local governments billions of dollars to upgrade roads, schools and other services. One solution under Ehrlich has been to trade unused state land that abuts mass transit centers to developers, who spend their own money upgrading government infrastructure.

State and county officials said the public-private partnership will save more than $80 million as the three developers - Bozzuto Group, Osprey Property Co. and Reliable Contracting Co. Inc. - will pay to build the two multilevel parking garages. The state and local governments will pick up an additional $5 million in annual tax revenue when the project is complete.

In return, the developers get a dedicated clientele base of commuters and homeowners that is only expected to grow. The trio also owns more property adjacent to the state and county tracts.

Tom Baldwin, board chairman for Reliable, pointed to a MARC train that stopped in Odenton during the news conference. "Here's what counts for us - all of those people on those trains," he said.

The train station has 2,000 spaces, which are filled up on a typical workday by 8 a.m. Nearby residents have complained of traffic backups and drivers illegally parking their cars on side roads and in private lots.

"This project had merit before BRAC because of the station, and parking is at capacity," said David Lewis, president of Osprey Property Co. He added: "BRAC clearly was a catalyst."

The town square is also expected to be a key component in a coordinated state-county mass transit plan to encourage defense workers who live south of the Army post to commute north on MARC to Odenton, where a shuttle bus service can take the workers to and from Fort Meade.

With the town square project in motion, state and local planners expect other portions of the long-awaited 1,622-acre Odenton Town Center to come to form. Odenton is one of three areas in Anne Arundel County designated for "town center" development, a pedestrian-friendly mix of dense housing, retail stores and offices. Residents have been planning for that project since 1968.

County planners have said Odenton is ideal for such a large town center because of its proximity to major roads and transit options, such as the MARC station.

The state granted a crucial wetlands permit last year to the principal developers for the town center, the Halle Cos. of Silver Spring and Reliable. With BRAC growth around the corner, officials are confident that the project can take off if development plans are tied to transit.

"Odenton, as the governor says, will become the center of growth and development in Central Maryland," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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