The Baltimore Business Journal recently convened “The Future of Owings Mills,” a panel discussion with Councilwoman Vicki Almond, Stevenson University president Kevin Manning and real estate developers Brian Gibbons of Greenberg Gibbons, and Howard Brown of David S. Brown Enterprises.
The event, hosted at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center and attended by area illuminati, cognoscenti, and glitterati (I don’t know what any of these words mean) was billed as: “Owings Mills is not about the dead mall anymore. This Baltimore County suburb is hot.”
Rumor that’s truth: Owings Mills is still totally about the dead mall.
Rumor: Kimco, the property’s owner, wants out.
Truth: I petitioned Councilman Julian Jones to turn it into neighborhood green space and park.
To this event, I wore a scarf.
My scarf was useful for fanning myself because there was so much self-congratulation. “Everybody is feeling the excitement,” Almond said.
Because Owings Mills is so hot. And for so long we were so not. White Marsh took off and we did not.
But now Owings Mills is on fire with development. Councilwoman Almond said that the Owings Mills Mall is the “third piece of puzzle” along with Greenberg Gibbons’ Foundry Row and David S. Brown Enterprises’ Metro Centre. What’s happening with this third piece, the mall, is that no one knows. Councilman Julian Jones (who hosted community meetings about the dead mall’s future in August) said Kimco has been a particularly silent partner.
Here’s the reality, here’s what we do know: Developers are making our town. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. See: Andrew Carnegie, Pittsburgh. James Rouse, Columbia, Maryland. And Kevin Plank, all around you.
But if you’re going to do “planned community” you’d better be a visionary like James “Better Living Through Design” Rouse . In Owings Mills, there is a lot of growth but not a lot of vision. And I’m not going to even suggest that we aim for beauty.
Owings Mills Metro Centre is the only TOD, or transit-oriented development, in Owings Mills. Even with its ridiculous British English spelling of centre, Metro Centre is Owings Mills’ town square. It is one of the few places in Baltimore County where there is a there there: CCBC and the library and a plaza for pedestrians to be convivial in the sunshine.
Would that we had more of these places! Call me Jane Jacobs with “eyes on the street,” but I would like Owings Mills to have more than commerce — to have beauty and street life and a park.
I walked from my house near Crossroads to Wegmans along Painters Mill Road because I am an intrepid pedestrian, but I don’t recommend doing it because it is not safe, the road is fast and the sidewalk ends. People in their cars gave me funny looks, PEDESTRIAN! Are you crazy?
A car-centric, vision-limited, big box, commercial “build it and they will come” mentality seems to still be catnip to county developers. It is taking a glacial pace for this withered limited old urban design to change in Owings Mills. This is a shame. While we continue to build vast impervious parking lots in Owings Mills, other cities smartly retrofit the ghastly tragedy of their suburbs. How can Baltimore County compete for, ahem, the millenials, ahem?
We need to increase the county’s walkability, connectivity, and green space. The future of Owings Mills is not a dead mall resuscitated or mixed use real estate — these things are not the only pieces of the puzzle.
The places where we live need to be “worthy of our lives.”
Baltimore Fishbowl contributor Elizabeth Bastos lives in Owings Mills with her husband and two children.