"You want to create a well-developed project," he said

More than 1,000 units are planned at Bluestream, north of Route 175 next to the next to the former Luskin's shopping center, where infrastructure such as sewer lines is being created and construction on the first phase of 254 apartments will begin this year, said Murn, president of Murn Development, which has completed other communities in the area, including Belmont Station, a 110-house project.

The county has sought to concentrate development around U.S. 1 rather than encourage people to build homes in the rural western county. According to a county planning document, The area around U.S. 1 makes up about 8 percent of the land in Howard, with just under 4,000 acres available for development.

Howard officials see the corridor as ripe for more compact development — projections show that residential areas will have fewer single-family homes and more apartments.

"The market for apartments and townhomes has done consistently well in Howard County" because officials in Howard have prevented overbuilding, Murn said. "They have a nice, consistent approach. It's the smart way to go," he said.

Construction is also under way at Howard Square, where more than 1,000 homes, businesses and office space, and a hotel are expected on the site of the former Aladdin mobile home park.

While zoning restraints might not deter some developers along the corridor, another big challenge has been assembling parcels large enough for development.

"Route 1 has a lot of small parcels with individual ownership," said Laura Neumann, the director and CEO of the county's economic development authority. "They need to accumulate land," which can take time.

But she said the area holds lots of promise because of its proximity to Fort Meade and National Business Park, as well as access to I-95 and Route 32.

"It's a matter of finding the right projects — what is good for the developer and good for the community," she said.

Officials hope that the proposed Troy Park Tennis and Sports Center will become a draw for new businesses and residents. The project was supposed to schedule tennis tournaments this summer, but funding did not come through as expected in December. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has asked for a third-party review of a previous economic impact study, approved by the Maryland Stadium Authority, before pursuing other sources of financing.

Councilwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, said she hopes the project will be completed and act as an attraction for the area, boosting area businesses.

"We have to figure out a formula for Route 1," Watson said.