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Metro Centre retail and residential building to open in May

Construction of the first two residential and retail buildings for massive Baltimore County development Metro Centre at Owings Mills will wrap up by next month. The first will open in May and the second will open at the end of June.

The buildings, called Metro Crossing, are both five-stories high, with retail on the ground floor and rental apartments on the upper floors. The buildings are mirror images of each other. The two buildings split evenly a total of 56,000 square feet of retail space and 232 one- and two-bedroom apartments. 

A number of retail leases are in final negotiations, says Lynn Abeshouse, managing principal of real estate brokerage firm Abeshouse Partners. Until contracts are signed, Abeshouse declined to give specific names but says possible tenants include fast-casual and white-table restaurants, clothing stores, liquor stores and health clubs. 
One-bedroom apartments average 770 square feet; two-bedroom apartments, which all have two full bathrooms, run from 873 square feet to 1,245 square feet. Prices for one bedrooms run from $1,580 to $1,695 per month; for two bedrooms, $1,855 to $2,490 per month. Abeshouse declined to say how many apartments have been leased so far. 
The two buildings are located on Grand Central Avenue, off Painters Mill Road, near the Owings Mills Metro Subway Station and across from the County Campus at Metro Centre at Owings Mills. The six-story combination Baltimore County Public Library and the Community College of Baltimore County building is scheduled to open this week. A free parking garage next to the building is already open.
The two residential and retail buildings, the library/community college building and an office building now under construction compose the first phase of the Metro Centre at Owings Mills. That's about one-fourth of the total development. The four-story, 200,000-square-foot office building on Grand Central Avenue is expected to open this fall.
The state-designated transit-oriented development will eventually have over 1.2 million square feet of office space; 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; 1,700 residential units; and, a 250-room hotel. Maryland and Baltimore County have spent more than $57 million on infrastructure at Metro Centre at Owings Mills to date. The rest is privately funded.
Source: Lynn Abeshouse, Abeshouse Partners
Writer: Barbara Pash

Road Closures in Store for Southeast Baltimore

Travelers in Southeast Baltimore should be on alert for a few extra orange cones over the next year.
New construction is set to begin on several streets and intersections in the area. The improvements are part of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation's $44 million SouthEast Road Reconstruction Program which aims to improve access to the Port of Baltimore, reduce truck traffic on neighborhood streets, and create safer traveling for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, according to the city's Department of Transportation.
Starting this fall, construction will begin at four new sites:
• Site 1: O’Donnell Street from S. Ponca Street to Interstate Avenue
• Site 2: O’Donnell Street Cut-off at Interstate Avenue
• Site 3: Boston Street from S. Ponca Street to Haven Street
• Site 4: Boston Street & S. Clinton Street
Work on the project will conclude in fall 2013.
Improvements at the locations include street widening to allow for dedicated turn lanes, pavement reconstruction, stormwater management improvements, roadway resurfacing, ADA pedestrian ramp improvement, signal improvements, and landscaping.
The construction could close lanes periodically as well as restrict parking.
Source:  Baltimore City Department of Transportation
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Sushi Restaurant Checking Into BWI Airport

Soon you’ll be able to pick up a spicy tuna roll and chardonnay before you fly on AirTran Airways or Southwest Airlines.

A sushi restaurant by the name of Gachi will open late spring at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, airport spokesman Jonathan Dean confirmed. It will be located in the food court in Concourse A, according to the county liquor board.

Adding new shops and restaurants is a priority for the airport as airport traffic picks up, Dean says. BWI had a record year last year with 22,391,785 passengers.

“The airport is working to add a number of concessions,” Dean says. He couldn’t specify the type of concessions.

BWI wants to beef up offerings in Concourse A/B since AirTran shifted its operation there following its merger with Southwest Airlines, Dean says.

Gachi received a special airport concessionaire license, which allows it to sell any kind of alcoholic beverage.

Inez M. Setiabudi and Daniel Kurniawan, listed as the holders of the liquor license, could not be reached for comment. 

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Jonathan Dean, BWI; Anne Arundel County liquor board 

Maryland Could Get Road Upgrades to Handle Arundel Mills Casino Traffic

A local transportation firm plans to implement a unique road design to handle additional traffic upon the opening of the Maryland Live Casino at the Arundel Mills Mall this summer.

Casino developer Cordish Cos. has hired White Marsh transportation engineering firm the Traffic Group to analyze and plan what would be Maryland’s first diverging diamond interchange if it receives approval from the state’s highway administration.

The interchange, planned at the intersection of the Baltimore Washington Parkway and Arundel Mills Blvd. should be open in time for the opening of the casino later this year.

This type of interchange can move more vehicles more efficiently, and at a lower cost, Traffic Group President Wes Guckert says. Guckert estimates the cost of the project between $1 million and $2 million.

A diverging diamond interchange works by eliminating competing left turns when coming off a highway.  The interchange allows drivers to make a free left turn as if it were a right turn that creates a diamond-like traffic pattern. The left-turn becomes like a right-turn, which allows more efficiency in movement.

It's the left turn, says Guckert, which often slows down the movement of traffic. Drivers can make twice as many left turns per hour compared to traditional designs with the diverging diamond interchange.

"You create a much safer operating environment for the motoring public, one that is faster and more efficient," Guckert says.

The diverging diamond interchange was first developed and built in France 20 some years ago, but was implemented for the first time in the U.S. in Missouri. Guckert studied the Missouri interchange and decided that it could work in Maryland.

The Traffic Group is now analyzing the possibility of implementing the interchanges at several locations in Maryland.

Writer: Alexandra Wilding
Source: Wes Guckert, the Traffic Group

Circulator Launches New Green Line Route

The Charm City Circulator, Baltimore's free bus service, launched a new route on November 1, 2011. The new Green Route will allow Circulator riders greater access to popular points downtown. The new route includes stops at City Hall, the Maritime Park connection to the Water Taxi and the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.
The Green Route also increases access to the Fell's Point area including Harbor East. Popular attractions for both tourists and locals, including the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Broadway Market, are features of  the new route. The new Green Line interconnects with the orange Line at Harbor East, but does not have a connection to the Purple Line. It  also allows riders to connect with Metro trains at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Shot Tower/Market Place stations.
The launch of the Green Route also coincides with the addition of a new bus type to the Charm City Circulator fleet. The Orion VII BRT Hybrid bus will go into service as part of the Circulator fleet. The new model of  hybrid bus will be used throughout the Circulator's routes.
Financed by Baltimore's parking tax revenue, The Charm City Circulator has carried approximately 3 million riders since its initial launch. The Circulator is slated to expand service to include a new line running from the Inner Harbor area to Fort McHenry in the spring of 2012.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Downtown Partnership, Charm City Circulator

Transportation Authority to Issue Bid for Travel Plazas

The Maryland Transportation Authority will issue a bid this spring for the redevelopment and operations of the aging Maryland House and Chesapeake Travel Plazas.

The redevelopment is expected to occur via a public-private partnership. An outside firm would incur the costs to design and rebuild the travel plazas in Harford and Cecil Counties in exchange for a long-term contract to manage them, transportation spokeswoman Kelly Melham says.

The agency doesn't have an exact date for issuing the bid, but has given notice to the Maryland legislature that it intends to do so, Melham says.

HMSHost Corp. of Bethesda currently operates the retail and food service in the travel plazas.

The transportation agency had originally been scheduled to issue a bid in the fall, but canceled the plans after repeated revisions to the plan and several extensions to the deadline.

The Maryland House Travel Plaza in Aberdeen dates to 1963. The Chesapeake House Travel Plaza in North East opened in 1975.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Kelly Melham, Maryland Transportation Authority

BWI to Issue Bid for New Duty-Free Concessionaire

Officials at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport could get a new operator to man its duty-free concessions.

Sometime this year, the airport will issue a bid for its duty-free shop, BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean says. The shop is located in Concourse E, the airport's international terminal.

Duty Free Americas Inc
. of Hollywood, Fla., has managed the shop since 2003. The company operates duty-free shops at 15 airports, including Dulles International Airport, Boston's International Airport, Miami International Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The contract was given a one-year extension, starting April 1, at the March 9 Board of Public Works meeting.

A new contract for a duty-free shop would likely begin April 2012.

The duty-free operator will pay the Maryland Aviation Administration an office space rental of $125,725 per year, or 15 percent of gross revenues up to $750,000 and 20 percent of gross revenues that exceed $750,000 whichever is greater.

Nearly 22 million passengers flew through BWI last year, a 4.7 percent increase over 2009 and an all-time record for the airport.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Jonathan Dean, BWI

Baltimore Nabs $19M as Part of Living Cities Integration Initiative

Baltimore City has been awarded $19 million in grants from Living Cities, a collaborative of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions. The city is one of five chosen as winners in the new Integration Initiative, which supports game-changing innovations that address intractable problems affecting low-income people. The award continues Living Cities' nearly 20-year commitment to Baltimore, which has resulted in millions of dollars for community initiatives.

The Baltimore Integration Partnership focuses on creating job opportunities and improving neighborhoods in Central and East Baltimore, while preparing residents for opportunities created by the construction of the Red Line, a 14-mile east-west transit line. Through the Integration Initiative, Baltimore is eligible for up to $19 million in grants, loans, and Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to support its efforts. PRIs are flexible, low-cost loans provided at below-market rates to support charitable activity.

The Integration Initiative is an effort to leverage the financial investment, influence, and leadership of Living Cities members to create a new framework for solving complex problems. It encourages local leaders to work together to challenge obsolete conventional wisdom, "rewire" the systems that are critical to making our cities places of opportunity for low-income people, and drive the private market to work on behalf of low-income people. The Integration Initiative seeks to institutionalize these changes through a focus on changing local, state and federal policy. The support to Baltimore is part of up to $80 million that will be invested in five metropolitan areas.

As part of its application, Baltimore's public, private, philanthropic and non-profit sectors agreed to work as  partners on the initiative. The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers coordinated the application. Partners in the effort are the Office of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Office of Governor Martin O'Malley, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Goldseker Foundation, Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative, Associated Black Charities, Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative, Johns Hopkins University and Medical Institutions, Maryland Institute College of Art, Job Opportunities Task Force, Central Baltimore Partnership, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, and the East Baltimore Development Inc. The Reinvestment Fund will serve as the financial intermediary, making targeted investments in projects that advance the initiative's goals.

The Baltimore Integration Partnership will build upon the success of Baltimore's Workforce Funders' Collaborative, an effort that has helped launch programs in biotechnology, healthcare and construction, moving thousands of low-income city residents into careers, and the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative's efforts to promote transit-centered community development.

"This selection represents a continuation of our relationship with Baltimore," says Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht. "Since 1991, we have invested $23 million in affordable housing and other initiatives in Baltimore, which has been leveraged to a total investment of $108 million. We have also previously invested in green retrofitting initiatives there."

Living Cities resources will help Baltimore create a model for how neighborhood, regional, city, and state economic development and transportation investments can benefit low-income people by driving and/or integrating workforce development, affordable housing and neighborhood amenities. Funding will result in at least 1,200 residents being connected to job pipeline services, 840 of whom will be employed in careers with family-supporting wages; 400 units of mixed-income housing built; and 346,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial space developed.

Source: Living Cities
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Airport full-body scanner firm gains new contracts and expands in Edgewood

Smiths Detection, a Harford County firm that made headlines earlier this year for its controversial full-body airport scanners, is expanding its Edgewood headquarters this month as it wins new contracts.

The company, which designs sensors to identify explosives, narcotics and contraband, is adding 15,000 square feet to its warehouse. The 130,000-square-foot facility has added 70 employees in the last 18 months to a total of 215.

The expansion will give it the space it needs to supply the U.S. military with a chemical agent detector and manufacture X-ray scanners for the Transportation Security Administration, says Tim Picciotti, Smiths Detection's vice president, military & emergency responders .

Picciotti says the company likes Harford County because it is close to Aberdeen Proving Ground, the site of a Department of Defense testing facility for chemical and biological detectors.

It's also a good location because Aberdeen is expected to get as many as 20,000 jobs due to the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.
"BRAC will bring more of a high-tech workforce to Harford County," Picciotti says. "It's a fantastic location for us."

Earlier this year, the TSA expanded its use of full-body scanners, touching off a firestorm of complaints from privacy advocates who say the scanners are too invasive. Advocates say the full-body scanners can detect concealed weapons that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Picciotti says that in the future, Smiths plans to make X-Ray systems so advanced that passengers wouldn't have to remove their shoes or dump their bottled water.

Smiths Detection's other U.S. offices are in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. It employs 800 in the U.S. The company is part of the global Smiths Group which employs more than 9,000 people in the U.S.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source; Tim Picciotti, Smiths Detection

New $107M MD 85 interchange opens

The $107 million Frederick gateway project opened in December. The new gateway to Frederick includes a new interchange at MD 85 (Buckeystown Pike)/East Street and I-70 and an extension of East Street. The improvements according to state officials will ease congestion and improve safety through the corridor as well as provide enhanced access to Frederick's MARC train station. Since the project was announced in 2005, roughly 500 jobs were supported during the construction.

"Frederick is the State's second largest city and its vitality is critical to Maryland's economic health," says Gov. Martin O'Malley. "This new interchange has a wide range of benefits. It supports the Bio-Technology Corridor, makes mass transit easily accessible, reduces traffic congestion on area roadways and provides the City of Frederick with a gateway that provides easy access to the downtown business district."

The interchange project is part of a multi-phase improvement project along the I-70 corridor. Improvements to I-70 and its supporting interchanges have been planned since the early 1980s, with SHA initiating several breakout projects over the years to advance the overall corridor improvements.

The I-70 corridor through Frederick County serves 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles each day. That range is expected to reach 100,000 to 140,000 over the next 20 years. With the completion of this major project, motorists will now use the MD 85/East Street interchange to access the City of Frederick from I-70. Over the next few weeks, the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration (SHA) will open the new roadways and ramps to transition traffic to new traffic patterns.

"The number of stores and businesses in Frederick has increased in recent years, along with the number of people and the number of cars on the highway. While this is great for Frederick's economy, it has become increasingly difficult for Frederick's commuters," says Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "This new interchange will relieve congestion and greatly improve the commute along the I-70 corridor. I will continue to make Frederick's transportation needs one of my top priorities and a priority in the federal checkbook."

With the opening of the new interchange, SHA will close the ramps at the MD 355/I-70 interchange. The existing interchange on I-70 at MD 355 has short acceleration and deceleration lanes, very sharp curves and short merging lanes. Closing the existing interchange will improve safety through the corridor and also relieve congestion on MD 355 as motorists using the new interchange will exit I-70 onto MD 85 or East Street.

As part of the project, crews constructed three storm water management ponds and pumping stations to handle surface water. SHA placed synthetic material under the roadbed for added support and a special liner in drainage ponds. These measures help prevent sinkholes, which are common to the area.

A unique feature of the project not currently used anywhere else on state highways is the use of underground sensors to detect ground movement and potential sinkholes. If the ground shifts underneath the road or even the lined pond, an alarm will alert maintenance crews and geologists who will respond immediately to assess the situation and take appropriate action.

Although SHA is opening the interchange, additional work on the project will continue through spring 2010. SHA will not open Monocacy Boulevard extended between South Street and East Street until next year as additional paving and roadway tie-ins cannot be completed during cold temperatures. The contractor, Dewey Jordon of Frederick, will also complete a new railroad crossing at the intersection of Monocacy Boulevard and South Street.

As part of the project, SHA also will construct a new ridesharing lot. The new ridesharing lot located off New Design Road near Harry Grove Stadium will offer 105 spaces and seven handicap accessible spaces. SHA will open the new ridesharing lot next spring, weather permitting.

Source: State of Maryland
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Cardin and Mikulski net $300M for BRAC-related transportation projects

U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski and Congressman Chris Van Hollen recently announced unprecedented federal investment of $300 million in BRAC-related transportation projects outside the gate of what will be the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Projects include improvements to the surrounding roads, including MD-355, and upgrades to the Metro station.

The $300 million was included for BRAC-related transportation mitigation efforts for the future Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda (currently the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center) and the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia as part of the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Act. Both installations and their surrounding communities stand to be heavily impacted by the 2005 BRAC-mandated consolidation, which is set to conclude in September 2011.

"This announcement is good news for the thousands of wounded warriors and their families who will use the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as well as Montgomery County's beleaguered commuters," says Senator Cardin. "As a delegation, we have been united in our effort to provide needed federal support for the expanded medical facility and the tens of thousands of new military and civilian jobs being brought to our state through the BRAC process."

"I fought in the Senate to BRAC-proof Maryland's bases, now I am working to BRAC-ready our transportation systems. Our troops fight overseas to protect our freedom, they shouldn't have to fight traffic to get the care they've earned when they get back," says Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The Walter Reed National Military Center at Bethesda will be the frontline in delivering care to our wounded warriors."

"This unprecedented investment will allow us to help ensure that the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is a world-class center of excellence for our nation's wounded warriors, and that the demands placed on the surrounding community as a result of this relocation are adequately addressed," says Congressman Van Hollen. "Federal, state and local officials are working closely with the community to create as smooth a transition as possible, and this funding will be a critical component of our success." 

The BRAC Commission's recommendations will bring 45,000 to 60,000 new jobs to Maryland by 2020 as well as new sources of state revenue.

Writer: Walaika Haskins

Brown's Wharf marina to increase Fells Point business

If you think finding a parking spot in the heart of Fells Point is hard, try being a boater. Slips to, well, slip into for an evening of shopping and dining on dry land are relatively scarce, but there will be quite a few more next spring thanks to Brown's Wharf.

The development, which contains more than 105,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and office space, will begin construction this fall on 19 40-foot slips and 210 feet of side ties (spaces where boaters can moor parallel to the dock). The marina by the time boating season begins next spring.

"We bought the building three years ago, and we were aware there had once been a marina there and that there was in fact a marina in that location in the master plan of Baltimore Harbor," says Brad Dockser, managing partner for ownership group, Brown's Wharf, LLC. "It was always our intention to rebuild a marina there, in part to activate the waterfront to increase activity there. We spent last year designing and thinking about what we wanted."

While some of the mooring spaces will be available for month- or yearlong rentals, others will be made available on an overnight basis. Dockser says the marina will not only be a revenue source for the management company, but will bring more customers to Brown's Wharf businesses.

"Most 40-foot boats don't have a kitchen," Dockser notes. "Because of the demographics of boating, we anticipate that more people will come to Fells Point for an overnight stay and dine at places like Kali's Court or Meli. Or, if they want something more informal, they'll go eat at a place like Shuckers."

Dockser says rates and policies for the marina should be determined by early 2010.

Writer: Lucy Ament
Source: Brad Dockser, Brown's Wharf, LLC

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