Rt. 1 Continues to See Increased Investment

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

For more than a decade the calls for redevelopment have echoed throughout the Rt. 1 corridor. Plans have emerged, ideas have been tried, and slow methodical progress has been made.

What has remained consistent through all this process is that Rt. 1 continues to be a tough nut to crack.

Like other projects in the county, the Rt. 1 corridor faces a special set of challenges that are unique to its own. Spread out over 11 miles of the county, the corridors lack of a central location combined with the different personalities and needs of each section results in a unique challenge for the project. What ends up being the right solution for one part of the corridor, often does not work with another part of the corridor, making it impossible to apply a one size fits all answer to the entire area.

However, in the past five years there have been new projects springing up along the eastern edge of the county. Led by both the private sector, public sector, and State Highway Administration, there are slow changes happening to the Rt. 1 area. Large communities, like Howard Square and Blue Stream, have created vibrant and desirable residential communities and brought residents to the area. Additional residential projects are in the plan for years to come, adding even more living opportunities, including a 1,000-unit transit oriented development (TOD) project the Laurel Park Marc station.

There has also been an increase in the private sector investment along the corridor. Many new commercial buildings have been constructed or are under construction, especially those catering to the rapidly expanding food distribution industry located here. This will bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in investment. Recently it was announced that BTS Bioenergy had selected two potential locations along Rt. 1 to construct state of the art biodigestion facilities to recycle food waste, with BTS Bioenergy investing a total of $40 million of their capital to construct the facilities. Last year, it was announced that Freshly would locate their new east coast facility in the former location of Coastal Sunbelt, bringing 500 new jobs and private investment to the region. That building was only available because of Coastal Sunbelts decision to remain in the county and construct a 330,00-sq. ft. building that will employ 1,500 people; a building that opened in 2016.

Additionally, there has been increased investment from retail and restaurants opening along the route. In 2014 Jailbreak Brewing opened their doors and then expanded that facility several times in subsequent years. In Jessup CVS completed construction on their building, while up the road the announcement was made that Mutiny Pirate Bar selected Troy Hill Drive for a new location. Additionally, Guinness Tap Room selected a location directly north of the county line to be their first taproom in the U.S. since the 1950’s.

The Howard County Government has also played a role in bringing new amenities and services to the corridor over the last five years. At 101 acres Troy hill park became the county’s eighth regional park, offering residents access to new athletic fields and a playground right near the intersection of Rt. 1 and MD-100. In 2013, the county opened the doors of Ducketts Lane Elementary in Elkridge to relieve pressure from several other schools. In the nearby community of Oxford Square the county also completed the construction of the Thomas Viaduct Middle School in 2014 and plans to open Elementary School # 42 next door in August 2018, both of which service the residents of the Rt. 1 corridor. In 2013, the County relocated the Savage Volunteer Fire Company into a new location on Rt. 1 and in 2018 it will open the new Elkridge Volunteer fire station. Construction continues as well at the Elkridge Branch Library and 50+ Center which will open in 2018.

Even as new developments are being made, the key challenge continues to be striking a balance between the areas industrial base and residential base. Rt. 1 has a long-standing tradition of being a major distribution and manufacturing hub for not just Howard County, but for the entire region. The central location between the Baltimore and Washington DC, as well as major projects like the Maryland Food Authority have been attracting businesses to the area for more than 50 years. These businesses and their large warehouses and fleets of trucks have also brought many of the county’s jobs with them. In Howard County the Trade, Transpiration, and Utilities industry represents the second largest employment sector with over 20% of the jobs in the county classified in these categories. A large population of those jobs are located along the Rt. 1 corridor. The only industry sector larger is the Professional and Business Services category with 27% of the market share.

However, the businesses that call the corridor home have been slowly evolving over the years as well.

Nestled in the business parks are many industry leading companies doing incredible things with technology and advanced manufacturing, showing a change in the winds for the area. Some of these businesses include wind tunnel manufacturer Aerolab, who moved to Rt. 1 in 2015; drone manufacturer UAV Solutions, which expanded 60,000 sq. ft. in 2014; Autobahn Indoor Speedway, which invested $1.75M on an indoor electric go-kart racing facility in 2013; biopharma distributer Cavalier Logistics, who invested heavily in a state of the art pharma cold storage facility this past year; and Coastal Sunbelt, which opened the nations most advanced food processing facility in 2016. As the county looks ahead at the upcoming years and building vacancy rates remain low, it is expected that even more high tech companies will begin looking to the eastern edge of the county to grow their business.

Development and investment continues all along the corridor in small pockets, but it is these combinations of projects that will lead to a greater Rt. 1 community. The redevelopment of the corridor does not just effect the residences, but also the businesses as well. To be successful in redevelopment the needs of both groups need to be considered and balanced to create an environment where they both can grow together, side by side.

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