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County touts 'new urbanism' in development plan for Route 43 in White Marsh

Kevin KamenetzDesign Collective, Inc.Cathy Bevins

Developers plan to build 1,700 housing units near a mixed-use business park in White Marsh, saying it will "supercharge" an area that had previously been targeted for job creation.

The $100 million development, Greenleigh at Crossroads, would be part of the 1,000-acre Baltimore Crossroads @95. Baltimore County officials announced the plans Wednesday with representatives from developer St. John Properties and Somerset Construction Co.

St. John officials said they'll break ground on the 200-acre project — which will include single-family houses, townhouses, condominium units and apartments — within the next year to 18 months.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called the proposed community the county's first major development showcasing "new urbanism" — a concept that promotes walkable access to workplaces and shopping. About 100,000 square feet of offices and retail space also are planned. Officials said the design, by the Baltimore firm Design Collective Inc., would draw on elements of the Maple Lawn development in southern Howard County.

"It will attract not only families who want to live here in an exciting village, but also major employers and businesses that may have overlooked the benefits of Route 43," Kamenetz said.

The project follows the County Council's passage of a bill earlier this year that opened the land, previously zoned for industrial use, to residential development. That bill, promoted by the Kamenetz administration, allows an administrative law judge to waive county development regulations on the size of buildings and parking requirements, after a public hearing.

When an extension of Route 43 was first proposed, officials called it the "road to opportunity" because it would open the largest undeveloped tract of industrial land in the county for job creation. The extension, finished in 2006, cost $76 million and was built specifically to promote economic development. Officials hoped the area would attract companies in fields such as biopharmacology, defense contracting and information technology. Many also believed federal base realignment would spur development there.

About 3,000 people work at Baltimore Crossroads, but open lots around the business park sit empty. Jerry Wit, a St. John Properties vice president, said the new homes, offices and stores would be "a supercharging of the project" that could entice more employers.

Wednesday's news conference was held at Arbors at Baltimore Crossroads, a 365-unit luxury apartment building that opened two years ago as the first residential component there. Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, recalled the excitement when the Route 43 extension opened, and said she believes additional housing there will be "a game changer."

The bill to open the land to more residential construction was opposed by groups including the Bowleys Quarters Community Association, whose members felt it could lead to poorly planned development.

The association's president, Allen Robertson, said this week that people in the community don't oppose housing at the site because "the old plan didn't work." But combined with other large-scale housing development planned for the area, he's worried developers are building too many homes.

He called it worrisome that county officials passed legislation that paved the way for the project.

"The concern is that they're customizing laws to accommodate projects," he said.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Kevin KamenetzDesign Collective, Inc.Cathy Bevins
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