"I hear mixed things from people," Marks said. "As much as people are concerned about the impact on White Marsh Mall and the road network, there is also a significant frustration that the approved development plans added so many apartments and condominiums. There are thousands of residential units that are already approved that are going to impact our local schools. A lot of people wanted those apartments eliminated, and the new plan slashes the number by 1,000."

Paragon's Antill said people might not realize the existing development plan allows for the higher-density housing. He said the developer has spent time speaking to both community and business groups.

"Obviously somebody is trying to drum up negative support late in the game here," Antill said. "It's obvious who's behind it."

If the changes are approved, Paragon would buy the property from current owner Corporate Office Properties Trust, which would retain the rights to two office buildings on the site and develop another 250,000 square feet of offices.

The developer hopes to secure all county approvals by year's end and start the 15-month construction of the outlet center next spring. Antill said the firm is making progress in pre-leasing the center, slated to include many tenants in other Paragon malls. Apartments and a hotel would come later.

Paragon has a reputation for building successful outlet centers and filling them with store tenants such as Barneys, Bloomingdale's, DKNY and Prada, who follow from project to project, Millman said.

"They have the best of the best retail tenants," he said. "They will be able very easily to assemble a list of high-quality, well-connected brand names in their center," he said.

The outlet center would complement the area's other retail offerings, Antill said, drawing brand-savvy bargain shoppers from within a 65-mile radius.

"We are going to pull people from areas not coming to shop the White Marsh area now," he said. "It should be a rising tide for all."

He noted that one of Paragon's newest malls will open this August in Eagan, Minn., just a few miles away from the huge Mall of America.

"The trend has been for our industry to get closer and closer to the population centers, and closer and closer to the malls," he said. "People are attracted to the brands. It's an entertainment experience as well as a shopping experience."

Still, Millman said, the proposed center will likely divert traffic and sales from shopping centers in White Marsh and Towson.

But it also will attract Baltimore-area customers who now drive farther for outlet shopping, and it will easily attract drivers off I-95, he said, "travelers who would not otherwise be stopping."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com