Owings Mills’ proposed development will be a catalyst for the area and create enormous economic opportunity for the state and county, including creating almost 3,100 permanent jobs, a top regional economist said Tuesday.
“The project would provide the community with an important focal point in the form of a Wegmans, and this community has been crying out for a focal point for years,” said Anirban Basu, CEO of economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group.
Basu spoke to a group of local political and business officials inside the Solo Cup plant, which is now a dingy, dilapidated space with leaking ceilings sealed off with yellow caution tape.
The crowd included former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, county council chairwoman Vicki Almond, Councilmen Tom Quirk and David Marks, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, representatives of Councilmen Todd Huff and Ken Oliver and county executive special assistant Tony Baysmore.
Officials from the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, Reisterstown Improvement Association and Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable were also in attendance.
Basu framed his prentation in the context of Owings Mills history, which shows that the town was designated as a growth area in 1979, and a plan for the town was adopted in 1984. “Master Plan 2020” says the county should look to build a mixed-use development at Solo Cup.
“It’s a mixed-use that very much fits the fabric of what the community is and needs to be,” Basu said.
Developers Greenberg Gibbons and Vanguard Commercial Property Development, which plan to invest $140 million in the site, hope the 52-acre property will be the future home of a national fitness anchor, national sporting goods anchor and other smaller retailers. In addition to Wegmans’ 130,000 square feet, there is a plan for approximately 243,000 square feet of other retail, 13,500 square feet of restaurants and 40,000 square feet of office space.
“So, what you're basically doing is you’re going to eat and then you’re going to exercise,” Basu said, sprinkling in jokes among the facts and figures.
When Foundry Row is up and running, it will bring 3,076 jobs to the site and surrounding area and will generate $447 million in annual business sales, according to Sage Policy Group’s study. Baltimore County stands to make $4.8 million in tax revenue, and the state $8.2 million, according to the study.
The construction phase includes 2,311 jobs in Baltimore County, and $264 million in sales by county businesses.
“Somebody is making a big bet on this community, on the future Owings Mills,” Basu said.
All of these plans hinge on one crucial zoning decision, to be made by the county council in the fall. The Solo Cup property is currently zoned for industrial use, and needs to be rezoned for retail.
As officials make plans for Solo Cup, Kimco and General Growth Properties hope to transform the to an outdoor retail center and David S. Brown Enterprises is moving forward with the transit-oriented . Both Kimco and David S. Brown officials have argued that Foundry Row would and create additional problems, such as traffic congestion.
A by Kimco and GGP said that if all three Owings Mills projects go forward, the area will have a half-million square feet of retail surplus. Basu dismissed this notion, saying that Kimco and GGP used data created for its study rather than numbers available to the general public. It also didn’t take into consideration the 1,600 residential units that will be built at Metro Centre, he said.
“This project is simply not big enough to undermine those,” Basu said. “In fact, this project really makes Metro Centre much stronger.”
The other developers and community members also have concerns about traffic, but Brian Gibbons, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons, expects his company’s $5-$6 million in off-site road improvements to improve traffic. A traffic study for Foundry Row will be released in the next couple of weeks, he said.
Gibbons also expects to win the zoning battle, citing overwhelming community support and the attendance of public officials at Tuesday’s conference. If the rezoning is not granted, he said his company will still aim to redevelop the property.
Basu thinks rezoning the property is the most sensible option.
“This is an opportunity to go from abandonment to something that will be the focal point for the community,” he said. “I don’t see how you could say no to zoning under those circumstances.”
Baltimore County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond also says the community can support a rezoned, redeveloped Solo Cup property along with the revamped mall and Metro Centre.
“This is going to give Owings Mills a life and a heart that it hasn’t had before,” she said.