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White Marsh and Owings Mills were supposed to be Baltimore's growth engines starting in the '80s. According to local real estate mogul Howard Brown, there's one reason White Marsh leapfrogged its economic development counterpart: The land was held by a single owner. But construction is now well under way on Howard's Owings Mills Metro Centre, which he says is the heart of the operation.
Howard Brown at 100 Painters Mill Road on Feb. 29, 2012
We snapped the David S. Brown Enterprises founder in his 100 Painters Mill Road office in Owings Mills in front of a painting calledErector Set. Let's just say that the title is a double entendre (we cropped in). Howard bought the painting from a Sotheby's catalogue thumbnail for his six-year-old grandson. Once the 10-foot-ish canvas arrived, Howard realized what he'd bought and made the decision to reserve the artwork for adult possession.

Metro Centre on Feb. 29, 2012
Howard tells us White Marsh was built on the old Campbell Sand & Gravel site. Owings Mills, though, developed less cohesively. (We understand that "Owings Mills" translates loosely as "the land owned by many.") He says the town's geographic center was supposed to be a transit-oriented development of Owings Mills Mall and Metro Centre. That last one, which he now owns, faced tons of delays, and meanwhile, the mall floundered. But construction is back in full swing. At the train station, Howard built the parking garage in '09, which we snapped from the balcony of his office. And that crane on the right now hovers over the project's in-process library and community college.

Howard Brown's office at 100 Painters Mill Road on Feb. 29, 2012
This artwork is pretty apropos for a real estate developer. It's made entirely of drywall screws. Five years ago, Howard bought the Metro Centre site from special servicer LCOR, which had "dribbled the ball" for the previous five years without taking a shot. He built the 3,000-car garage on good faith so the train station's surface lot would be ready for development once he got the green light. Now he imagines his site (all the yellow boxes below) to be built out in 10 years.
Owings Mills Metro Centre plan
$30M from the county and state for the 120k SF library and community college paved the way for another $28M in grants for supporting infrastructure. Now, his plans for the site (25-acres south of I-795 and 13 acres north) are to build 240 apartments and a four-story office, both with ground-floor retail. That'll complete Phase 1, which will deliver in spring 2013. That will for the most part build out the public plaza along that pink-outlined road, creating a presence and thus driving more demand. Next would be hotel and high-rise office, and then maybe high-rise apartments. If any office were to go spec, it'd be on the southern parcel while the northern one could work for a large user build-to-suit, he said. And then he gave us a copy of Gov. Marty O'Malley's Executive Order that states that state government office or lab space be TOD whenever possible. He also points out that not many 400k SF office blocks are available.
Howard Brown's office at 100 Painters Mill Road on Feb. 29, 2012
Howard tells us 110,000 cars pass Metro Centre everyday (very few of them with such vibrant colors) and they can access the development and Owings Mills Mall, which Kimco and General Growth are redeveloping as an open-air shopping center, directly from the interstate, without adding to congestion on public roads. Those exit and entrance ramps were the legacy of the county's 1980s investment in Owings Mills' economic development. And they're the main reason Howard says his project and the mall redevelopment should get priority over Greenberg Gibbons' redevelopment of the old Solo Cup site into the mixed-use Foundry Row (up for zoning-change approval now).