Two years ago this month, Baltimore County officials opened a 230-unit luxury apartment building at Metro Centre in Owings Mills — the transit-oriented development project that holds such great promise.
Now those rental units, ranging from one- and two-bedroom units starting at $1,600 a month, are 80 percent occupied.
So it's not surprising David S. Brown Enterprises took the next step in growing this prime piece of real estate earlier this month — construction of a four-story, 200,000-square-foot office and retail building.
It will be interesting to see if this structure, adjacent to two parking garages with a whopping 5,000 spaces, will fill up faster than the apartments, which took time to draw interest. The office building is expected to be ready for tenants to move in next summer.
What could draw both residents and companies to Metro Centre is its incredible proximity to the Owings Mills Metro subway station just steps away, the new Foundry Row complex down the street featuring a Wegmans supermarket and hopes for a revamped Owings Mills Mall only a short walk up the hill.
There's also the huge county library branch and a commodious community college center — the Community College of Baltimore County — next door.
While Grand Central Avenue — Metro Centre's boulevard — is hardly booming, the pieces are slowly being laid for what could be a hugely successful venue combining ready access to rapid transit, education and learning, shopping and entertainment.
When completed, this 40-acre development could have 7 million square feet of space for offices, retail shops and restaurants, 1,700 residential units and a boutique, full-service hotel.
Owings Mills will never be the same.
The building shared by the county library and the Community College of Baltimore County has been growing in popularity.
The giant library contains 70 computers for public use, 140,000 books and other reading material, study rooms, a magazine lounge, a teen area, an early learning center, a quiet room, a community room for meetings and Wi-Fi service.
On the top floors, CCBC occupies 80,000 square feet of space with 23 classrooms and 13 modern science laboratories.
I've taught a course at the CCBC campus and I can attest to the fact that the facilities are high-tech and first-rate.
County officials have high hopes for the office building now starting to rise. Owings Mills already has become a popular spot for T. Rowe Price, CareFirst, Toyota Financial Services, Baltimore Life and Zurich America.
Companies eager to take advantage of access to the subway to downtown Baltimore could find the new office building at Metro Centre ideal.
Some 140,000 vehicles pass by Metro Centre each day on Interstate 795. Another 5,000 people use the Owings Mills Metro stop every workday. Each month, 30,000 people visit the library and community college branch.
More construction activity is in the works. Howard Brown, whose company is building Metro Centre, recently said he'd like to begin work on a 225-room hotel with a catering service, conference center and spa this winter.
Then in the spring, Brown said his schedule calls for construction to start on an 18-story high-rise with 400 apartments.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says the market is finally beginning to catch up to the notion that projects close to rapid-rail transit hold immense value both to businesses and people looking for convenient living locations.
Frustrating delays over the past 15 years in bringing this dream to fruition finally are in the past.