The multistory parking garages rising next to Interstate 795 stand as the most visible signs of new construction near the Owings Mills Metro station.
But just behind the car-centered structures, officials say development of a dense and walkable downtown is starting to take off — validating the idea of the transit-oriented development that was first proposed there more than 15 years ago.
"It's all coming together now," said Howard Brown, chairman of David S. Brown Enterprises Ltd., the project's developer, which hosted a groundbreaking Thursday for the newest building — 200,000 square feet of offices and stores on the main avenue.
Across the street, the 232 apartments on the site are about 80 percent leased. Restaurants and shops have started to fill the ground floor. A public library branch and a campus of the Community College of Baltimore County opened about two years ago.
Brown said he expects to start construction of a 225-room hotel with catering, a conference center and spa this winter. Construction could begin on a new 18-story high-rise with nearly 400 apartments next year.
"We will have enough activity here that we will probably be on cruise control," he said.
The $1 billion Metro Centre project, located on more than 40 acres and projected to add 7 million square feet of space once complete, was one of the state's first transit-oriented developments.
The project has weathered legal wrangling, changes in development teams and the economic recession.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the new buildings in Owings Mills show that the market is finally catching up to the idea of tying new real estate projects to public transportation. But for other projects to follow, the state will need more transit, he said.
"Clearly the Baltimore region needs a more effective and efficient transportation system," Kamenetz said. "Obviously the state is backtracking on that commitment to the Baltimore region. We're here to promote the concept."
Del Adams, acting director of the Maryland Department of Transportation's Office of Real Estate, said Metro Centre "sets an example" as the state explores possibilities for other transit-oriented development projects.
"We want to partner more with those who have the same vision of transit-oriented development improving our overall environment, creating urban centers such as this where people can live, work and play," he said.
Adams declined to comment on how Gov. Larry Hogan's decision to cancel the Red Line would affect transit-oriented real estate projects.