Within two months, Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons plans to demolish the 1.8 million square-foot Solo Cup site on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills. In its place, he'll build a $140 million retail center anchored by Wegmans.
Although two neighboring developers say the Baltimore County Council should not grant the former manufacturing site a commercial zoning classification, Greenberg Gibbons officials are confident that their project will breathe new life into Owings Mills.
“We feel like it’s a natural retail corridor,” Tom Fitzpatrick, president and COO at Greenberg Gibbons, said in an interview with Patch in advance of a news conference on the project next Tuesday. The company is set to release an economic impact study.
The project calls for 385,000 square feet of retail, 130,000 of which would be occupied by Wegmans, and 40,000 square feet of office space. The developer’s vision includes small box stores that would house a national fitness center, a national sporting goods retailer, a national shoe retailer and a ‘Main Street’ of retail.
A building called the Foundry Building would have a common area of restaurants and office space above, Fitzpatrick said. A fitness company and sporting goods store have already signed letters of intent, he said. Provided the rezoning passes, site work could start in fall 2013. CEO Brian Gibbons told Patch he hopes Foundry Row will open in 2014.
But officials from Kimco, one of the developers revamping the Owings Mills Mall, and David S. Brown Enterprises, the developer behind the Metro Centre project, take issue with Foundry Row. Both developers say there is already too much traffic – the State Highway Administration says a major intersection near the Solo Cup site is failing.
The mall should be fixed first, and this project would out-position the mall, which already has the necessary infrastructure for a retail project, said Geoffrey Glazer, Kimco’s vice president of acquisitions and development for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.
But Fitzpatrick said he thinks all three projects can co-exist in Owings Mills. He considers his project a small, grocery-oriented community center, while the mall is a regional, fashion- and department store-anchored retail project that would attract a different customer with different retailers. The Metro Centre is an office park with multi-family residences, retail for the residences and transit-oriented development, he said.
“We see Foundry Row as very complimentary to both of these projects,” he said.
He’s not the only one.
Baltimore County Council Chairperson Vicki Almond said all three projects can flourish, as did the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable and the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce. Most area residents are also rallying for Wegmans.
The owners of the St. Thomas Shopping Center, which sits next door to Foundry Row, have expressed their support to Greenberg Gibbons, and Douron Commerical Interiors just bought space on the other side because Foundry Row is coming, Fitzpatrick said. St. Thomas and Foundry Row may connect their parking lots.
But some organizations other than the nearby developers are cautious. The Valleys Planning Council, a county advocacy group that dates back to the 1960s, has taken a preliminary position that the zoning should not be change at the Solo Cup site, its director said.
“The main concern is about what the traffic impacts can be and we haven’t really seen information yet that addresses that,” said Teresa Moore, executive director for the VPC. “The other concern is that all the investments that have been made in infrastructure for the Owings Mills growth area and the mall site – you don’t want to sink that effort by saturating the market ahead of them.”
The Solo Cup site sits on the border of the VPC area, which includes 130 square miles north of the beltway, east of Reisterstown Road and Route 30, west of I-83 and to the Prettyboy Reservoir. The group will make a final decision when it hears more information.
Fitzpatrick is quick to respond to concerns about traffic and over saturating the market. His company, which developed the Hunt Valley Town Centre and Annapolis Town Center at Parole, has seen a ripple effect in the communities where its projects have taken off.
In Annapolis, for example, a nearby Shoppers Food Warehouse updated its décor, a Kohl’s opened, a neighboring shopping center expanded and the mall announced an expansion, he said. Foundry Row outshines those projects before construction has even started, he said.
“Of all the projects we’ve had, the pre-leasing activity and demand here is stronger than what we had in Annapolis and Hunt Valley,” Fitzpatrick said.
He said the area is craving retail and will support the number of retailers his project will bring along with the mall and Metro Centre. A recent study puts retail vacancy rates in Owings Mills below Towson and Baltimore if you remove the Owings Mills mall vacancies, he said.
Off-site traffic improvements at the sum of $5 million to $6 million should solve traffic woes, Fitzpatrick said. Greenberg Gibbons will widen Reisterstown Road, something SHA called for, at its own expense, on its own right of way. It will also build a three-lane road behind Foundry Row that will run parallel to Reisterstown Road and install a traffic light on Painters Mill Road at the intersection with the new road. There will also be multiple entrances to the shopping center, which will contain 2,100 parking spaces.
If David S. Brown Enterprises agrees, the road behind Foundry Row could be extended to run south behind Home Depot and end at Valley Center, Fitzpatrick said. Either way, people coming from I-795 could get to Foundry Row without touching Reisterstown Road.
“The traffic has to improve for us, too,” he said. “We don’t want to create something that doesn’t work.”
Fitzpatrick envisions a lively "community center" that will also serve as a gateway to the mall and Metro Centre projects.
“We’re hoping to be able to deliver something that Owings Mills can be very proud of and can be a catalyst for new things to happen,” he said.