Foundry Row developers have cleared another hurdle in their plans to build a Wegmans-anchored mixed-use center on Reisterstown Road.
Development plans by Greenberg Gibbons and Vanguard, the companies building Foundry Row at the site of the old Solo Cup factory, were approved on Feb. 24. Arguments opposed to the plans were also rejected in the decision by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals.
Demolition is 90 percent complete, with another building due to be knocked down in May, and grading and construction should start by the end of the summer, said Greenberg Gibbons chairman and CEO Brian Gibbons. LA Fitness and Sports Authority have signed on as tenants, and the company will soon sign leases with a national cosmetics company, a national clothing company and some restaurants and shops.
As Greenberg Gibbons applies for grading permits, David S. Brown Enterprises’ million-plus-square-foot transit-oriented development, the Metro Centre at Owings Mills, is also taking shape nearby.
The newest tenant there, Subway, joins Baltimore County Public Library’s largest branch, the Community College of Baltimore County and Metro Crossing Apartments.
Howard Brown, the chairman of the Metro Centre developer who was staunchly opposed to Foundry Row — he favored redevelopment at the Owings Mills mall — appeared to be looking on the bright side.
“When you look at, in between the Wegmans project and in between the Metro project and what’s going on in Owings Mills, I think it’s going in the right direction,” he said.
Gibbons, as well as Councilwoman Vicki Almond, have been hyping the synergy between the projects from the start.
Neither Almond nor Brown have heard anything about the fate of the more-than-half-vacant Owings Mills mall. A representative of would-be redeveloper Kimco Realty did not return emails seeking comment. The company said it would halt plans to redevelop the mall into an open-air center if Foundry Row got the zoning it needed to house retail on the site, which it did in August 2012.
Gibbons said his company offered to buy the mall and was rejected.
While opposition to Foundry Row, which began more than two years ago, has consisted mostly of legal challenges to plans in recent months, the issue is likely to come up in this year’s race for Baltimore County’s 2nd District seat.
Vicki Almond’s challenger, attorney Jon Herbst, said he would have approached Foundry Row differently. While he said the project will “probably be good for the community,” he said he would have considered phasing in the zoning, perhaps using the Planned Unit Development Process (PUD), which would have required additional community input.
His concern is about the impact bringing in national chains will have on neighboring local businesses, offering the example of of LA Fitness moving next door to Lynne Brick’s fitness club in the St. Thomas Shopping Center.
Some residents remain concerned about potential traffic issues as well as impacts on the local economy. Members of the Valleys Planning Council had widely different opinions, so the organization took a neutral position on Foundry Row, said executive director Teresa Moore.
“A lot of people are excited about it,” she said. “They want the upgrade in the area, they want the ability to shop, and other people are concerned about the impacts.”
While a traffic study released by Kimco in March 2012 said Foundry Row would increase traffic in the area, Greenberg Gibbons’ assessment, which includes road work and widening as well as traffic light improvements, said the development will improve the area’s traffic.
“The traffic will be better with our project, with all the improvements we are doing, than it is today,” said Gibbons.
Foundry Row will feature 360,000 square feet of retail and 60,000 square feet of office space. Wegmans will occupy 130,000 square feet and is expected to open in 2016, a spokesman for the chain said.
The Metro Centre will be home to 1.2 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, 1,700 apartments and a hotel with up to 250 rooms. Brown said plans for the hotel and high-rise apartment buildings are being finalized.
Almond thinks Foundry Row will become the new center of Owings Mills, and economic development will spread from there. She thinks whatever retail doesn’t open at the center, which will be about half the size Hunt Valley, will still want to be close by, making the Metro Centre an attractive option.
“I am feeling excited and optimistic,” said Almond. “I think this is the time for Owings Mills.”