The proposed Foundry Row retail center won’t add to the traffic woes on Reisterstown Road at Painters Mill Road, the project’s developer said.
In fact, if Greenberg Gibbons Commercial’s proposal for Foundry Row is approved by Baltimore County officials, the traffic situation would improve from the days when the Solo Cup factory was in full operation as the Sweetheart Cup Co., argued Brian Gibbons, president and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons.
Not everyone shares that view. An area developer and at least one state official question Greenberg Gibbons’ plan, which still hinges on the approved rezoning of the Solo Cup site for commercial use.
Before Solo acquired the factory in 2004, more than 1,300 employees worked there, a number that dwindled to 540 until the company announced it would lay off those remaining employees and begin ceasing operations at the factory last summer.
Delivery trucks would visit the factory at all hours, too, contributing to the factory's impact on traffic.
But Gibbons said with several millions of dollars of road improvements and a parking lot that will accommodate only 2,100 vehicles, there will be no negative traffic impact when the outdoor shopping center opens. He said his company would pay for the improvements.
The State Highway Administration already categorizes the Painters Mill Road and Reisterstown Road intersection as failing, spokesman Charlie Gischler said. About 36,000 vehicles already pass through the intersection per day, on average.
“It’s obvious we are going to improve the traffic situation with this project,” Gibbons said from his Owings Mills office, where Solo Cup’s silos were visible from a windowed conference room.
“It has to work. The traffic has to work,” he continued. “We have budgeted a significant amount of improvement.”
Under Gibbons’ proposal, a four-lane access road to the development would be built off Painters Mill Road, providing three separate access points to Foundry Row. An additional lane would also be added to Painters Mill, and to Reisterstown Road, which will run southbound to the end of the Foundry Row property and will include four other entrances to the shopping center.
Gibbons would take chunks of land from the 52-acre acre site to create the new lanes.
“What we’re proposing will improve existing impact,” Gibbons said. “This will go beyond mitigating the impact. I want to make sure it’s done right.”
State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, an Owings Mills Democrat, has concerns about Foundry Row and traffic. He has been critical of the proposal, saying he wonders if Baltimore County is failing to adequately plan for the future.
"To rush headlong, singing 'Kumbaya,' off a cliff really is not a good way to do government," Zirkin told The Baltimore Sun. "County officials are so busy sending out press releases that they're kind of forgetting their responsibilities in terms of looking at the infrastructure."
Zirkin could not be reached for additional comment.
Howard Brown, president of David S. Brown Enterprises and the developer of the Metro Centre project just down Painter Painters Mill Road from where Foundry Row would be built, said Greenberg Gibbons was not going about the project right.
Brown contends that Gibbons’ traffic proposal counts on other property owners allowing the developer to connect his road to that of the shopping center that fronts on Reisterstown Road. The property directly southeast of the Foundry Row site is the St. Thomas Shopping Center, which then connects to the site of a Wal Mart and Sam's Club, which is a Brown property.
For now, Brown said he does not intend to allow the properties to be connected.
“They would like to believe they can manage the traffic with a four-lane road that goes nowhere,” Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense to develop anything on Reisterstown Road anymore … that’s a little rural road compared to what we have here [with I-795 and Owings Mills Boulevard at Metro Centre].”
Gibbons defended his plan. The developer is conducting a preliminary traffic study, and said he was confident his suggested roadway improvements would be sufficient to handle the traffic that a Wegman's supermarket and other small retailers would create.
The study won't be completed, and improvements won't be proposed, unless the Baltimore County Council approves the property for rezoning, Gibbons said. Should the developer get the go ahead, he thinks his lane additions will be sufficient.
“We know how to do these projects,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a series that will report and analyze Owings Mills development arguments. Read the first story here.
This story was changed to clarify Brown's ownership of a development off Reisterstown Road.