Rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes on the west side of Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills, the $140 million Foundry Row project has transformed what once was industrial land into a premier retail and gastronomic center. Anchored by Wegmans, the development, which celebrated its grand opening last month, seems to have sparked some much-needed economic activity in a corner of Baltimore County, which, centered among Pikesville, Randallstown and Reisterstown, is home to a sizable portion of the area’s Jewish community.
That the nearby Metro Centre along I-795 has been chugging along is equally good news, as shops and restaurants help provide the commercial life that keeps a community going. But until the problem that was once the Owings Mills Mall is solved, the area’s bright economic future is far from certain, a fact all too familiar to county officials and planners.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, coming up with a successful plan for the vacant land where the mall stood would be like winning the Triple Crown. “What I call it is the Triple Crown of Owings Mills — and that third crown, the mall, needs to be complementary of [Foundry Row and Metro Centre],” says Julian Jones, the Baltimore County councilman whose 4th District includes the mall. “We want the mall, or town center, to be something everyone is happy and proud of.”
As with the development of Foundry Row before the mall came tumbling down, we’ve been chronicling the ups and downs of the property at fairly regular intervals. You might ask why, as on the face of it, it appears to be a story of the differing visions of developers and politicians. What difference could there possibly be, for instance, between a Kohl’s, Walmart or other big-box store? What does it matter if there’s an anchor tenant or a smattering of small boutique shops?
Judging by the debates surrounding the site and the last-minute pulling of legislation that would have outlawed a store like a Walmart Supercenter, there’s more to it than just maximizing return and the development of a sustainable tax base. When it comes to development, the wrong decision could make a project flounder as opposed to flourish, having far-reaching consequences on such issues as property value, resident retention, traffic and quality of life. Meaning, at the end of the day it still comes back to people — those who now and who may in the future work and live in and around Owings Mills.
If the powers-that-be get it right, the result will be a better home for a good portion of Baltimore’s Jewish community.