This Analysis information dates back to the ZHA, May 2007 study but is kept here for background and a matter of record.
Since the 2004 adoption of The Odenton Town Center (OTC) Master Plan (Plan), there has been relatively little private investment consistent with the Plan’s Vision. Recent regional and local economic trends offer a unique opportunity to realize the Plan’s goals. Those trends, in conjunction with the shifting federal jobs, have opened the door for more rapid development in Odenton. Through concerted leadership and commitment, Anne Arundel County can turn what was once considered a distant vision for Odenton Town Center into a near-term reality and economic asset for Anne Arundel County.
The latest round of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process will shift thousands of Department of Defense jobs to neighboring Fort Meade. Apart from BRAC, the National Security Agency is also planning to substantially increase its presence on the base. All of this is occurring while the greater Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area is experiencing tremendous and transformative baseline growth.
The extent to which Western Anne Arundel County/Odenton can capture that growth will depend upon whether the County responds to the challenge by making the required investments in infrastructure improvements. The most important infrastructure improvements were identified in the Plan, and, to date, most have not yet been funded.1 Until key infrastructure improvements have been made, the extent and pattern of future development may not reflect the goals established in the OTC Master Plan. In this case, time is of the essence – either Odenton is available to accommodate higher density mixed-use development as demand peaks, or it will miss its opportunity to achieve the Plan’s Vision.
For purposes of this study it was necessary to assume that the area would be built out. Build-out was assumed to occur when density within the Odenton Town Center “Core” reached 75 percent of the maximum Floor Area Ratio2 set in the OTC Master Plan, and when densities outside of the “Core” achieve the more suburban intensity of an FAR of 0.3.
The “Mixed Use Town Center” Development Scenario (see Table ES-1) is not a market analysis; instead, the Scenario represents the reasonable long-term development potential of the Odenton Town Center under existing regulatory and market conditions, while also representing a development program that is consistent with the vision of the OTC Master Plan.
Whether development of that magnitude can occur will depend upon a number of factors. Among those factors are the following:
- Approval of development projects which will likely compete with the Odenton Town Center’s product and location (e.g. Arundel Gateway), thereby reducing demand for OTC;
- Land assemblage difficulties for developers in OTC, which may increase development at high levels of intensity; and,
- Timing of infrastructure development projects (e.g., Town Center Boulevard, the reconstruction of MD 175, and sewer and water) may have a significant impact on the timing, intensity, and nature of development in the OTC.
OTC Master Plan’s Priority Project List
The Plan identifies infrastructure improvements required to serve the growing needs of OTC.3 Under the Plan, the transportation projects required are broken out into Priority Projects that are “near-term” (one to five years after adoption of the Plan), those that are “mid-term” (six to ten years after adoption of the Plan) and those that are long-term. The Plan also recommends that the list of priority projects be updated annually.4
The Plan was completed in November 2003 and adopted in January of 2004. Those projects that are identified as “near-term” priority projects were intended to be completed roughly in the period between 2004 and 2008. Table ES-2 is taken from the OTC Master Plan. The priority projects represent adopted public policy, but implementation of those projects remains largely incomplete.
In addition to the near-term actions outlined in Table ES-2, the Odenton Town Center Master Plan also contains lists of recommended mid-term actions and long-term actions. Recommended mid-term actions (6 to 10 years after the adoption of the Plan, or 2009 to 2013) include the following:
- Build new roads and retrofit old roads to the streetscape standards outlined in the Plan;
- Build necessary hiker/biker connections;
- Identify and improve pedestrian circulation at designated intersections;
- Improve road access from MD 32 to MD 175; and,
- Acquire rights-of-way for long-term transportation projects.
Recommended long-term (11 to 15 years after adoption of the Plan, or 2014 to 2018) projects include retrofitting MD 170 to meet the streetscape design standards set forth in the Plan, as well as continued build-out of the OTC road network and completion of the necessary pedestrian improvements.
Non-transportation infrastructure projects will also be important to the future development of OTC, including:
- Expansion and improvement of the local public schools;
- Expansion of transit service; and,
- Expansion of water and sewer service to areas within the OTC that are not currently served.5
Fiscal Benefits of Development
When it was created, the OTC Master Plan envisioned a radical transformation of the Odenton area accomplished through strategic infrastructure investment. Today, regional economic forces can support Odenton’s transformation, but Odenton’s potential cannot be unleashed without key infrastructure improvements. Though those infrastructure projects will require capital expenditure, the County will also receive substantial general fund and designated fund revenues to offset these costs.
Revenues/benefits were estimated using the IMPLAN model. Those estimates were performed first in a static manner (as though full development is in place as of May 2007). Then, by applying assumptions generally consistent with those used by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, a model of phased revenues was prepared. This phased revenue model illustrates more realistically the potential fiscal benefits of full development of the Mixed-Use Town Center Development Scenario.
Table ES-3, above, demonstrates the magnitude of the potential revenue Anne Arundel County could receive between now and the ultimate build-out6 of OTC.
Where We Are
The latest round of Base Realignment and Closure will result in the shift of tens of thousands of jobs to the Fort Meade area. BRAC itself is just one part of that equation; additionally, the continued rapid expansion of the workforce at the National Security Agency and the influx of ever-increasing numbers of federal contractors means that the area around Fort Meade will be attracting thousands of new high-skill jobs in the coming years.
Nationally and regionally there are several common threads driving the real estate market. These include changing household types, the growing popularity in downtowns and urban/suburban cores, and continuing development at the edges of metropolitan areas. The future development potential of Odenton Town Center will be affected by the combined impact of these national trends and the local employment dynamics resulting from the influx of new jobs. Given that there are no comparable products nearby, the OTC is ideally positioned to capitalize on the demand for a Town Center in West Anne Arundel County.
Implications of No Action
Three policy objectives sum up the relevant aspects of the vision, purposes and goals of the Odenton Town Center Master Plan.
- To create a vital, compact, mixed-use environment with opportunities to live, work and play.
- To create a place in which a variety of transportation alternatives exist for residents and commuters alike.
- To create a unique sense of place through the development of a strong urban core, destination shopping and entertainment, and a quality mixed-use environment while respecting Odenton’s heritage.
Those objectives will more likely be achieved when the priority infrastructure projects identified in the OTC Master Plan have been funded and built. If the area impacted by BRAC is not prepared for growth, the following impacts may occur:
- Low-density, auto-dependent commercial strip development.
- Higher income and education-level households may choose to locate elsewhere.
- Public investment in transit and MARC garage parking leverage a lower level of private investment.
Rapid growth at Fort Meade will not happen again. Odenton has an opportunity now to capture much of the development potential associated with that growth. Failure to do so at this time may result in a re-orientation of Fort Meade to the West (directing growth to places such as Savage, Laurel, and National Business Park) or to the North and the growing Baltimore/BWI corridor.
The stars are aligned for the growth and development of the Odenton Town Center. BRAC, expansion of the NSA, regional and national demographic trends, and the existence of the Odenton Town Center Master Plan have created the conditions for the transformation of Odenton from a crossroads to a bustling, transit-oriented town center. In thinking about the Odenton Town Center opportunity, the key considerations are as follows:
- The fiscal and economic benefits to the County are significant;
- The market is here now; and
- This opportunity cannot be missed – there are no second chances.
If the proper steps are taken to manage this development, the current opportunity can be leveraged to achieve the goals set forth in the Odenton Town Center Master Plan.
The expansion at Fort Meade will happen, and it will increase both the County’s tax base and the County’s capital and operational costs. Growth will occur in Odenton, and thus the question is whether the near-term growth will be of the type that will allow OTC to reach its development potential. The conditions are right to achieve that potential provided that the necessary infrastructure improvements are in place. The projected increases in revenue accruing to the County in the coming years are sufficient to justify accelerating the public expenditure for capital improvements that will be critical to the successful implementation of the OTC Master Plan.
ZHA, Inc. May 2007
1 Just prior to release of this study, the Anne Arundel County Executive and County Council authorized $7.5 million in capital funds to support the development of Town Center Boulevard.
2 Floor Area Ratio is defined as the gross floor area permitted on a site divided by the net area of the site.
3 See e.g. “The (2004) Odenton Town Center Master Plan,” page 104.
4 See e.g. “The (2004) Odenton Town Center Master Plan,” page 243.
5 As with transportation projects, sharing of costs will likely be required in order to make the necessary improvements. For example, Anne Arundel County typically would fund the capital improvements to the water and sewer system, while developers would typically pay for upgrades to interceptors and all lateral connections.
6 For purposes of this illustration of phased revenues, that “build-out” is assumed to be 2032. However, “build-out” as it is intended and as it should be understood elsewhere in the full report does not refer to a specific point in time, and may or may not occur by 2032.