Groundbreaking set for Owings Mills college, library space

After years of planning, Baltimore County officials said they are set to break ground Thursday, July 28 on a new six-story building at Metro Centre in Owings Mills that will house the county's largest public library branch as well as new space for theCommunity College of Baltimore County.

Construction of the new building is the first step in a large-scale, transit-oriented development plan, talked about since the late-1990s, that is intended to bring new life to the area, help revitalize the adjacent Owings Mills Mall, and capture the full potential of Metro-accessible land that has been underused for years as parking, said Fronda Cohen, a county spokesperson.

"These sorts of public institutions, by the nature of their purpose, bring people together," Cohen said. "You have a lot of synergies with the people who are not only coming to the Metro station, but certainly for the people who live and work and go to school in the area."

"It'll provide two needed resources to the Owings Mills community, but it will also jump start the entire Metro Centre project," said County ExecutiveKevin Kamenetz.

The entire project is a collaboration between the county, the state and private developers, including David S. Brown Enterprises, which plans to build 1.2 million square feet of office space, almost 500 residential units and more than 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space as part of the total development plan, according to its Web site.

The new county building will be 120,000 square feet, with the library taking up 50,000 square feet on the first and second floors and the community college filling in 70,000 square feet on the fourth through sixth floors, Cohen said. The third floor will be reserved for public meeting space and administrative space for the library and college, she said.

The library will house a 142,000-item collection, 70 public-access computers and a variety of study and meeting spaces, while the college space will include 27 classrooms, 29 offices, a bookstore and a variety of other amenities, according to the county.

Construction of the building will cost $30 million, with the state contributing $9.7 million through the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the county contributing the remaining $20.3 million, according to the county. The building will meet LEED Silver standards and is expected to be completed by the winter of 2013, the county said.

The construction will also create 150 jobs for 18 months, Kamenetz said.

An additional $28.2 million for infrastructure and parking garages is being provided through a grant by the state and county, with the two paying $15.1 million and $13.1 million, respectively, according to the county.

A parking garage has already been built to accommodate the commuters and other area visitors who may have parked in spaces on the site of the new building in the past, Cohen said.

Because of its proximity to the Owings Mills subway station, the new building will be a hub of activity for students and library patrons, but also of visitors to shops, restaurants and other retail outlets planned for the future, said Ellen Kobler, another county spokesperson.

County officials hope the library and college space will further bolster developers' desire to collaborate in the project, they said.

"By having this building there first, there is a real advantage, in that it adds to the draw, because the people are there," Cohen said.

Kamenetz said the project will be complimentary to the existing mall, rather than a source of competition for it.

"It'll give us great momentum for further improvements in that commercial corridor, which would include the current mall, which I hope will be rebirthed in a new form as a result," Kamenetz said. "I think all the activity that's going to take place at the Metro Centre will create an impetus for redevelopment at the mall."

The groundbreaking, which Kamenetz said he will attend, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 28.

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