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New James Run development plan includes residential, retail and a hotel


New owners of a former nine-hole golf course in Belcamp are planning to add a residential component to the James Run project, offering a different development concept from what was proposed in 2012.

“This is a mixed-use development. We’re trying to take advantage of what’s going on in the country, residential and commercial together to people can work and live in the same place,” said Joseph Snee, a lawyer for developer JEN LLC, a consortium of craftsman developers from Maryland.

He said nothing like it has been developed in Harford County, likening it to Greenleigh development near White Marsh.

“Market studies show there is a need for that here,” Snee said.

A community input meeting on the 111-acre development was held earlier in December, and Snee said a preliminary site plan should be submitted by the end of the month. It will be reviewed by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee in January.

The plan for the property, near the Route 543 and Interstate 95 interchange, includes 11 office and retail buildings, a 125-room hotel, 300 apartments in six buildings, 191 villas and 87 townhouses, according to a rendering.

There’s a long history to the parcel, the former Bren Mar Park, where Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said he once took swimming lessons.

“It’s where a lot of kids took lessons, back in the ‘70s,” Glassman said.

A lot has been planned on the property over the years, he said, beginning in 2005 when the county zoned it as mixed office.

A development plan in 2012-2013, that included the office and commercial space, sought tax-increment financing from the county, which was ultimately approved by the Harford County Council.

Under the plan, the county would issue up to $23 million in special obligation bonds, at a maximum interest rate of 9 percent annually, to finance or reimburse the project.

The TIF expired, however, because the property was never developed.

At some point, Glassman said, it will be developed.

“It’s going to happen. My goal is to try and make it as productive as possible for the county,” he said.

The residential component is necessary, he said.

Though originally viewed as an office park or retail site, no one is building brick and mortar retail stores anymore, Glassman said. And not a lot of the first-class office space in Harford is being rented, he said, citing vacant space in Aberdeen and at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“That’s what brought us to mixed use, some residential, some commercial in addition to a nursing home, hotel and so forth,” Glassman said. “We want a first-class development there. It’s been on the economic to-do list to get off the books and up and running.”

The plans are still fluid, said Sean Langford, a vice president for MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services.

Langford said the residential component is definitely sought after in Harford County. As the population in the county ages, more and more people are seeking villa-type housing.

“They still don’t want to give up the size of their home, but they don’t want the full-time maintenance responsibility of it,” Langford said.

But housing is also needed for the younger families moving into the county, which the townhouses and apartments are geared toward, he said.

As the company responsible for marketing the development, MacKenzie has had interested from various retail, food and medical users, Langford said, but added it’s too early have any details.

The location is ideal for this type of development, Snee said.

“You’re going to maximize the proximity to 95 and 543,” he said. “From Florida to Maine, it’s one of the few undeveloped interchanges in that stretch of highway.”

One nearby resident, Joann Quinlan, said the area is changing so much, and more development isn’t necessary.

“I’ve been here since I was 4 years old. It’s change so much. I get it, things change, but it’s not the same anymore,” said Quinlan, who lives in the 3100 block of Philadelphia Road in Abingdon. “It’s traffic, the crime is getting worse around here. They do not need to develop any more stuff around here.”

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