“Malls are dead and strip centers are dying.”
Those strong words from Howard Brown, chairman of David S. Brown Enterprises, inform the vision for his project.
The Owings Mills project will be a high-density office, retail and residential project, known as transit-oriented development. The 45-acre site will hold 1.2 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space, 1,700 apartments, a 120,000-square foot community college and library building, and hotels with up to 250 rooms.
“Our intention is to create a town center for Owings Mills, which I would envision as being a very different type of development,” Brown said.
Phase one of construction will consist of up to 300,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and approximately 250 apartments. As of March 12, a 120,000-square foot building that will house Baltimore County’s largest library and a branch of the Community College of Baltimore County was 35 percent complete.
Brown says the Metro Centre’s retail component will consist of a wide range of restaurants, small retail shops as opposed to big box stores and a specialty food store akin to Trader Joe’s.
Although company press releases say the library and community college building is on schedule to open in the spring of 2013, Brown hopes to open it in January 2013 with two or three other buildings. Construction on those other buildings should start within two months, he said.
The library, Baltimore County’s 19th and largest branch, will occupy 50,000 square feet. The location will feature study rooms, 70 computers for public use, a magazine lounge, an early learning activity center, a teen area, café, large quiet study area, free WiFi and a community room that it will share with the community college.
The Community College of Baltimore County will relocate from its current Painters Mill Road branch to the Metro Centre, taking the remaining 70,000 square feet of the building. The new facility is three times larger than its current location, and will feature 23 classrooms and 13 science labs.
Several roads in the development are paved, utilities are installed and pad sites are graded.
Brown says the project will take six to eight years to be completely built out, and that timeframe depends on absorption.
Although he’s moving full steam ahead either way, the fate of two other development projects in Owings Mills could affect how quickly his entire project is built.
Developers Greenberg Gibbons are awaiting a zoning decision in the fall that could give way to , a $140 million Wegmans-anchored retail center on Reisterstown Road, at the site of the Solo Cup factory. At the same time, Kimco and General Growth Properties hope to transform the to an outdoor retail center.
Both Kimco and David S. Brown officials have argued that Foundry Row would and create additional problems, such as traffic congestion and excess retail and office space. One Kimco official even went as far as to say that if Foundry Row gets its zoning, the company will abandon the mall project.
Brown said the mall should be fixed before a retail project is placed on Reisterstown Road. He said he disagrees with Baltimore County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond's position that all three projects can move forward together.
“She’s enamored with getting a Wegmans, but she doesn’t understand that she could lose three or four more food stores because of that and create traffic congestion that Reisterstown Road may not recover from, and more stores [will] go dark,” he said.
Almond maintains that the area can support all three projects, giving the town the identity it has long sought.
“With cooperation from developers in the area, we can make it better,” Almond said in February. “I believe it can work. There's enough to go around."