County to buy a floor of new office building

October 12, 2007|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN REPORTER

To ensure construction of an office building considered vital to revitalization of the Oakland Mills Village Center, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said yesterday that the county will buy one-quarter of the space for public use.

Standing before a large sign picturing the planned Meridian Square office condominium building, Ulman said "the county has signed a letter of intent to buy one floor of the building" for $4 million.

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year on Meridian Square, a four-story, 60,000- square-foot, environmentally "green" building. With retail shops on the first floor and offices above, the brick building is to rise on a long-vacant 1.7-acre lot that once held a gas station on Stevens Forest Road next to the village center.

"When I moved to Oakland Mills, the village center had an empty grocery store and this vacant lot," said County Council Chairman Calvin Ball, an east Columbia Democrat and former Oakland Mills revitalization coordinator. He joined Ulman for the announcement.

Now, Ball noted, a Food Lion supermarket is operating at the center, and the new office building will fill the vacant lot. Ulman said the building will bring more people to the village center, helping the stores there.

But without the county's commitment, developer Metroventures Inc. could not have obtained construction financing, Ulman said. "This was critical to this building to move forward," he said

Ulman said the money for the purchase would come from a $16.6 million fund the County Council approved in the spring that was intended to be used to advance plans for a new government office and courts complex in Ellicott City. He and Ball said the County Council would not vote on the Oakland Mills purchase because it already had approved the money.

The county still intends to consolidate most offices in Ellicott City, Ulman said, but the proposed government complex could not accommodate every office.

Republican Councilman Greg Fox said buying space in Oakland Mills is different from what the county proposed last spring.

"There's definitely a lot of questions to be asked," he said.

Ulman said the county used a consultant to decide whether to rent or buy the space.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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