Library, community college appear to be on the way in Owings Mills

A long-stalled project to bring a library and community college to Owings Mills appears to be back on track.

The Baltimore County Council is expected to review contracts for the facilities this month, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said Wednesday.

Developer David S. Brown Enterprises had agreed to build the $25 million facility that will house the library and branch of the Community College of Baltimore County as part of a larger project known as Metro Center at Owings Mills. The project was first proposed 10 years ago, and would include shops, restaurants, housing and office space.

But the development has been delayed while county officials haggled with the developer over the cost of the library-community college building. County officials said an engineering study showed the building needed to be 120,000 square feet — 20 percent larger than originally proposed. The first step in the town center development — a 2,900-space parking garage at the Metro station — occurred in August 2007 but not much has happened since. Wednesday's announcement may signal new progress for the project.

The developer did not respond to a request for comment.

Kamenetz, the Democratic nominee for county executive, is facing Republican Kenneth Holt in November. He said the project will boost the county's economic development, job creation and sustainable growth efforts.

"Moving forward with this project will breathe life to a vacant parking lot," he said, adding that he hopes it will stimulate growth in the struggling Owings Mills Mall. The library and community college are expected to be complete in two years, he said. Kamenetz represents part of Owings Mills, but the project is planned for a neighboring County Council district.

Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth Oliver, whose district includes the project, said in an e-mailed statement he was pleased the project is moving forward. "We have been waiting for eight years. Baltimore County must continue to be a leader for economic development in the region," he wrote.

Business leaders hope the new facilities will draw more people toward the area.

"It will be a wonderful amenity, almost a centerpiece for Owings Mills, not only for the residents but the business community as well," said Brenda Crabbs, executive director of the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable. "There are so many young professionals employed at Owings Mills right at that core area. I'm sure they will make good use of the library and eventually the other retail aspects."

The library would be a much-welcome addition to Owings Mills, she said.

The 40,000-square-foot library would be the county's largest and include a cafe with wireless hot spots. The community college branch is expected to take up another 60,000 square feet.

Northwest Hospital Center chief executive officer Erik Wexler, who is president of the roundtable group, credited public-private partnerships with showing "we can band together and get projects like this done."

"This is a strategically important project, maybe the most important project for the Owings Mills area at least in the last 10 years in that it's going to provide an improved commercial environment in an area that is in desperate need," Wexler said.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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