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PROSPERING IN THE RECESSION Owings Mills area growing at rapid pace


Single-family home sales nationally are continuing to slide downward, but the Owings Mills/Reisterstown area is bucking the trend. In the first half of 1991, the burgeoning area rose to fourth place in a survey of fast-selling Baltimore communities, according to Legg Mason Realty Group.

"Owings Mills goes against the grain," says M. Ronald Lipman, partner in the real estate consulting firm Lipman, Frizzell & Mitchell, which produces an annual survey of the Owings Mills market.

Surprisingly, Owings Mills, which stalled during the fast-growth 1980s, is prospering amid the recession.

In the past, the Owings Mills area lacked the infrastructure needed for home and business construction. Now that new roads are in place, existing roads improved and utilities established, residential and commercial builders are flocking to the area because of its prime location off Interstate 795 and its convenience to Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington pTC International Airport.

"It's a niche market because the employment base is already in place," Mr. Lipman said. "I've never seen an employment base develop first and then have residential development follow."

Major employers in the Owings Mills market include T. Rowe Price, with more than 500 employees; Blue Cross Blue Shield, with about 2,300 people; and Alexander and Alexander, with 534 people. The Lipman, Frizzell & Mitchell report estimates that there are now 10,900 in Owings Mills working in retail -- including the chic Owings Mills Mall -- and office and research and development jobs.

Some homebuyers are looking at Owings Mills New Town, a 430-acre planned unit development located just southwest of Owings Mills Mall, as the next Columbia.

They hope to cash in by buying houses while development is just getting under way. And they are hoping for the same fast appreciations early Columbia buyers walked away with in the 1970s, said Thomas S. Bozzuto, president of the Greenbelt-based Bozzuto & Associates, developers of the Silverbrook Farm Condominiums in New Town.

The number of jobs in the area is expected to blossom to 85,000 when development is completed.

Half of the house shoppers visiting the New Town development now live within five miles, but that figure may shrink when people who work in Owings Mills relocate closer to their jobs.

The Silverbrook Farm Condominiums are the first entry into the Baltimore market for Bozzuto & Associates, which is primarily a builder of rental housing in the Washington area.

Mr. Bozzuto saw a need for moderately priced condominiums in the Baltimore area. Ranging in price from $80,000 to $106,000, the condominiums appeal to young, single, working people who are taking advantage of low interest rates to buy their first home, he said.

"We are enormously pleased with the growth in spite of the recession," says Jack Dillon, senior planner for the Baltimore County Office of Planning and Zoning.

To preserve open, green spaces in the area, the Planning Board is submitting a proposal Thursday to create a lake surrounded by nature trails or pedestrian and biking paths, a fishing center and small boating facility. Woodland areas will be retained in the stream valley wetlands.

Charles Stewart, president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization for several area communities, said his organization supports the plan for preserving and developing recreational space.

But Mr. Stewart added that community leaders are concerned that the new residential development will strain area schools, particularly Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown and Deer Park Middle School.

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