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High-end development follows BRAC jobs, slots near Arundel Mills

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Just a half-mile up the road from where a massive slots casino and entertainment complex is under construction on the grounds of Arundel Mills mall, another developer is putting money on this rapidly developing area of Anne Arundel County, constructing a $140 million mixed-use development of luxury apartments, an upscale hotel, and a steakhouse.

The Town Center at Arundel Preserve represents a foray into more high-end options in fast-growing western Anne Arundel, and more specifically the area around the mall, which is replete with fast-casual dining options such as Chipotle and moderately priced chain hotels.

The developer and county officials hope that — paired with the slots parlor and its own Bobby Flay brand restaurant — Arundel Preserve will serve as the foundation for an upscale housing, retail, dining and office space corridor similar to the heavily developed Tyson's Corner area in Northern Virginia. The first phase of the Town Center project, which includes a hotel retail space and 242 apartments, is slated for completion this month.

Somerset Construction, the project's Bethesda-based developer, is hoping to take advantage of the area's proximity to Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, especially as growth continues at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Fort George G. Meade and the National Security Agency. Longer-term plans call for more than a dozen office complexes that Somerset says could accommodate 10,000 workers.

We have the jobs and the housing and the demographics to support it," said Neil Greenberg, Somerset's chief operating officer. "I can't explain to you why it wasn't built yet, only that we saw the need and demand and we built it. The beauty is that we built it through a significant economic downturn so we were able to build steak for the price of hamburger."

Other area malls, in Columbia and Towson, have attracted developers to build housing and other amenities nearby in recent years. The town center-style model, which combines homes, office space and retail, has been marketed as a way to bring big-city amenities to the suburbs without crime and other urban ills. Officials in Arundel say the numbers are there for rapid expansion in the area near Arundel Mills, especially given the expected job growth there.

Robert L. Hannon, president of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public agency, estimated that in the next five years, up to 24,000 jobs will be created in the area around Fort Meade, which next month will conclude its federally mandated base realignment, reassigning members of the military to the area. Additionally, recent state estimates show that Fort Meade spends $18 billion annually in procurements, representing huge incentives for private contractors to relocate to the area, Hannon said.

"Much of the energy driving the Arundel Preserve project is the long-term fortunes of growth of at Fort Meade," said Hannon, who praised the developers for creating both an aesthetically pleasing design and using environmentally sensitive building materials. "In this area, you've got a very strong foundation that is driving major real estate development. This development will have a very strong impact on the entire county and the region."

Somerset Construction began developing the 268-acre Arundel Preserve development along Arundel Mills Boulevard in 2007, with town homes called Villages at Dorchester, the Arbors at Arundel Mills apartments and the Shops at Arundel Preserve, which features retailers such as Starbucks, a dry cleaner and a Five Guys hamburger restaurant.

The Town Center at Arundel Preserve, a mix of 242 apartments, a 150-room full-service hotel and more than 18,000 square feet of retail space on 25 acres just off of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is the third installment of the Arundel Preserve development, which developers say will ultimately include 13 office buildings and has an estimated price tag of about $1.3 billion. Southern Management Corp., which manages 70 apartment home communities across the region, developed the Town Center.

With the Town Center, the offerings have gone high-end. The New York-based George Martin Group, will open its sixth restaurant — the first in Maryland — Grillfire, a steakhouse and modern American grill. Rangoli, an Indian bistro, has also signed a lease in the street-level retail space.

"We did a lot of research and figured out where the growth spots are," said Matt Santeramo, general manager of Grillfire Arundel. "This is a very underserved market. The growth here is just explosive. It's a great opportunity."

County Councilman Daryl Jones, whose district includes Arundel Preserve, said the development further cements the area's nickname as the county's "Gold Coast."

"The developer has really done an excellent job at putting it together and making it a reality," said Jones, a Democrat. "It's smart growth. People will have a whole array of services available to them within their community."

In a year, the area will see an explosion of activity with the first phase of the slots casino opening. Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. won approval to build its planned slots casino and entertainment complex, which also features upscale dining and a live music venue. Prior to winning approval for the project, Cordish faced fierce opposition from some neighbors who live near the mall, including many who live at the Villages of Dorchester.

Construction of the casino is ongoing at the site of the mall, with company officials targeting next June as the opening of a first phase with 2,750 slot machines and the entire casino of 4,750 slot machines opening by the end 2012.

Joe Weinberg, president of development at Cordish, said in an email that many casino employees "are extremely interested" in moving into the apartments.

"It is a real asset for the community and complement to the entire Arundel Mills area, including the casino," said Weinberg. "They are building a first-class project with great amenities. We plan to work closely with the owners of the Arundel Preserve and other businesses in the region to maximize economic cooperation among all stakeholders."

Jeff Makhlouf, general manager of the Arundel Preserve hotel, said once slots debut, he's eager to see table games follow — something that would be up to state legislators to approve.

"That's when you have the high rollers coming in," he said.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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