WHEN THE Homebuilders Association of Maryland showcased six expensive residences in its six-week-long Dream Homes show last fall, an estimated 30,000 curious folks ventured out to see them in the Piney Orchard development of Odenton. The dream apparently caught on: The county has issued permits for 264 new condominiums and townhouses, with price tags around $115,000.
Add to these the additional sections of townhouses to be constructed by the Dream Homes' builders and the conclusion is inescapable that Piney Orchard sales are strong.
"Dream Homes certainly was a catalyst," said Robert R. Strott, senior vice president of Constellation Real Estate Inc., the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s commercial and residential real estate subsidiary which is developing the community.
Meanwhile, the Russett development, northwest of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway intersection with Route 198, will add 226 homes with features such as two-car garages.
These recent permit actions -- and additional construction in Seven Oaks, near Fort George G. Meade -- show that whatever the status of homebuilding elsewhere in the Baltimore region, this part of Anne Arundel is still a hot growth market. The reasons: good highway and train connections to Baltimore, Washington and Columbia, varied job opportunities, good schools and ample shopping.
The new construction has greatly changed the socio-economic level of Odenton. Each infusion of new homebuyers -- typically young, middle-income families -- lifts the median household income level closer to the county median. Further accelerating this trend have been Department of Defense cutbacks that transformed Fort Meade from a regular Army base, with its "boomtown" sleazy commercial strip, into a more specialized installation, with incomes to match.
In the 1970s and 1980s, conventional wisdom held that Odenton did not have a sufficient population to support a traditional regional shopping mall, given its proximity to Columbia Town Center, the Annapolis/Parole area, Laurel and Glen Burnie. As the community's rapid build-up continues through this decade, even that thinking may have to be re-evaluated.