While some parts of western Anne Arundel County, including Hanover and Crofton, have boomed with retail development, Odenton has largely been passed by.
But a new report commissioned by county economic development officials suggests Odenton has desirable demographics — educated, affluent homeowners who could support two more grocery stores and more restaurants.
"There is strong demand for certain kinds of retail in Odenton," said Mary Burkholder, executive vice president of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp., which commissioned the $15,000 study of Odenton's retail environment. The study was completed this year by Valbridge Property Advisors in Columbia.
Odenton is one of three designated town centers in Anne Arundel County, along with Glen Burnie and the Parole area of Annapolis. But development and redevelopment has been slow to take off, even with job growth associated with Fort Meade.
Odenton's town center area is located along Route 175, from Fort Meade in the west to Sappington Station Road in the east.
The report found Odenton could support two more grocery stores, in addition to the existing Food Lion and Weis grocery stores to the west of the town center area. One option for a new grocery store could be the vacant Superfresh space in the Odenton Shopping Center on Route 175. Coupled with a vacant CVS in the same center, there's enough space for a modern grocery store, Burkholder said.
The report says there's also demand for restaurants. Residents living within a 10-minute drive of the town center already spend $100 million on dining at restaurants — both within Odenton and beyond — and could support 50,000 square feet of additional restaurants in the town center, according to the report.
Other opportunities for retail growth could include child care, adult day care, boutique clothing and entertainment retail, medical and pharmacy and financial services, according to the report.
Burkholder said her staff will use the research to promote Odenton to retailers, including at next year's annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas. The economic development corporation has a new brochure highlighting Odenton's demographics and business opportunities.
"There's a lot of new development. There's a lot of redevelopment opportunities here," she said. "Our intention is to make sure we do everything we can to make sure the word is out."
The report also highlights demographics that can be used when trying to lure retail companies to the area. Within a 10-minute drive of the town center, there are 71,371 people, a population that's grown more than 28 percent since 2000 and is still growing. Just more than half of the population is in the 20-54 age range, a coveted demographic.
Odenton-area residents have a 71 percent homeownership rate and 38 percent of adults hold college degrees. The median income of families within 10 minutes of the town center is $81,259.
Even with favorable demographics and unmet demand, the report notes that Odenton's town center has plenty of retail competition. There are several large, regional developments nearby, including at Arundel Mills in Hanover, Waugh Chapel in Crofton/Gambrills and Quarterfield Station in Severn.
Claire Louder, president of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said updating the town center's master plan could help guide future retail development. Louder said the plan calls for retail shops in many places that aren't viable. She'd prefer the plan to concentrate retail in clustered, visible locations.
"You've absolutely got to think of location," she said.
Don Price, chairman of the Odenton Town Plan Oversight Committee, said the report will be fodder for discussion about where retail should be located. He said there's been a push from the development community to reduce or modify a requirement for first-floor retail in developments in the core area of the town center.
Price thinks there's information in the study that both sides can use in their arguments as the oversight committee updates the town plan in 2014. It was last updated in 2009.
While he believes the retail parts of the town plan can be "tweaked," Price said, "what we shouldn't be doing, I suggest, is going to a full change based off this report."
As the oversight committee heads into its update of the town plan, county government has been seeking volunteers. The committee and works with the government and businesses to carry out the plans for a "vibrant, transit-oriented, mixed-use community" in west county.
The committee's meetings, which are open to the public, are held at 6:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month at the Western District Police Station in Odenton.
Price, who has lived in Odenton off and on for 30 years, said there are multiple positions open on the committee. He said committee members have a chance to influence the future of the town.
"I've seen a lot of changes, a lot of them for the good. Even all the building going on right now is still good, and I hope it will continue that way," Price said.