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Special Report: Odenton's Apartment Boom

There are more than 1,300 apartment units under construction or planned for Odenton. Can the town support them all? And will they put a charge in efforts to bring in new retailers?

It has become a familiar sight in Odenton: large apartment buildings, rising along the town’s major thoroughfares.

There are 259 new units near the traffic circle, and another 369 units under construction along Telegraph Road. Over by the MARC station, 235 units are now available to lease.

All told, Odenton has more than 1,350 apartment units either newly built, under construction or in the development pipeline. Nearly all come with high rents and luxury amenities, and all are located within a three-mile stretch of one another.

Business leaders in Odenton said the apartment boom brings the promise of new residents, putting a charge into efforts to expand the town’s array of shops and restaurants.

But the community is also carefully watching how quickly the projects lease up, knowing that empty apartments would put the skids in the ongoing efforts to develop the Odenton Town Center.

Patch spoke with more than a dozen developers, real estate experts and residents about Odenton’s apartment boom, and found a mixture of excitement and skepticism.

What’s Being Built

The Odenton Town Center Plan Oversight Committee has recommended approval of six projects in the heart of town. Some are fully built and have residents living in them now. Others are still awaiting financing or final approval from the county's office of planning and zoning.

The projects include:

The Village at Odenton Station – 235 units, fully built and about halfway leased by the Dolben Co. Located near the MARC station, just off of Town Center Boulevard.

The Haven at Odenton Gateway – 252 units, also completely built and more than 70 percent leased by Johnson Development. Located along Annapolis Road near the traffic circle.

Flats170 at Academy Yard – 369 units under construction by Bozzuto Group. Expected to be complete next year with pre-leasing starting in the spring or summer of 2013. Located on Telegraph Road at the former Nevamar site.

Broadstone – 212 units by Alliance Residential, awaiting final approval from county planners. Located at Baldwin and Nevada avenues, adjacent to the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company.

Novus Residences – 239 units awaiting final approval from county planners. Also located near the fire hall, at Nevada Avenue and Hale Street.

Berger Square – 48 “workforce” units from Homes for America, with construction slated for next fall. Located on Berger Street near Annapolis Road.

With the exception of Berger Square, all of these apartment complexes identify themselves with the “luxury” label. Units come with high-end features like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. On-site amenities include saltwater pools, theater rooms with flat-screen televisions, spacious clubhouses and workout centers.

They also come with high rents. A one-bedroom apartment at the Haven at Odenton Gateway or Village at Odenton Station can go for more than $1,700 a month, rivaling a mortgage payment for a house.

But so far, leasing has been strong, with the Haven seeing more than 70 percent of its apartments leased. The Village at Odenton Station, which began leasing up more recently, is more than half filled.

“These are people who could afford a home payment but are choosing the apartment lifestyle because it’s more convenient for them,” said Claire Louder, president and CEO of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.

Reasons for the Boom

Developers and real estate experts point to several factors driving the pace of apartment construction in Odenton. First, vacancy rates in apartments had been very low for years, often forcing people to look elsewhere for places to rent. And then in 2010, more than 5,000 jobs came to Fort Meade as a result of the base realignment and closure activities. Many of these jobs come with good paychecks. (An average salary at the Defense Information Systems Agency, for instance, is near $100,000.)

That influx of jobs coincided with a housing market that had not yet recovered from a major collapse two years earlier. While interest rates on homes have been low, banks have remained conservative in their lending practices. Thus, the community has seen many residents capable of making high monthly payments but still unable to secure a mortgage loan.

“We are still benefiting from the shift in renters vs. buyers and predict that the surplus of folks choosing apartment living over home purchase will continue,” said Jeff Kayce, a vice president with Bozzuto, which is constructing the Flats170 project.

Moreover, developers also found themselves asking a simple question: “What else would we build?” While financing for apartments is hardly easy to come by, it's not impossible. With the for-sale housing and retail markets soft, there was a period when apartments were the only things developers felt inclined to pursue.

Can it Last?

Officials in Odenton predict that the Village at Odenton Station and Haven at Odenton Gateway will be fully leased by early next year. But that will still leave roughly 800 more units to fill as other projects come out of the ground. Is it too many units, too fast?

“We’re not going to second-guess the market,” said James Fraser, chairman of the town center oversight committee. “People are spending a lot of money and they’re not going to spend a lot of money unless they think it can work.

Fraser pointed out that some projects may receive approval from the planning office, but fail to get financing. Others, he said, could always be converted to for-sale condominiums if market conditions changed.

Developers said their market research suggests more people will be moving to the area due to continue growth at Fort Meade. The National Security Agency, U.S. Cyber Command and other agencies are expected to add as many as 15,000 jobs in the next few years, and many of those people will want to live close by.

“We need new housing given the expected growth and proximity to jobs,” said Ellen Miller, a principal with StonebridgeCarras, which has partnered with Bozzuto on the Flats170 project. “We are fortunate that Maryland is a prime beneficiary of federal government activity and employment opportunities even in these challenging times, and that the area focus on communications/cyber security, et cetera, remains a federal priority.”

That said, some business leaders said developers may shy away from presenting any new apartment projects to town, at least until they see how the existing projects lease up.

“I actually did have a conversation with a new developer the other day, and I said ‘hmmm, it might be time to start looking at townhomes,’” Louder said.

The Positives of New Residents

Rather than dwell on the ability of apartment owners to secure leases, Fraser said he preferred to look positively at the potential for thousands of new residents to the area.

“I’m happy that we’re going to get the residential density,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I think the more people we can get into the town center the better we are. That’s my whole goal, to bring people there so that we can get retailers to follow.”

Most of the apartment projects are being constructed as part of broader plans that eventually involve retail spaces. The Village at Odenton Station, for instance, includes a large, street-level retail space that will feature restaurants and stores. The Haven at Odenton Gateway is on the same site as a CVS, Patient First and new medical office building.

“We’re starting to get a density of residential that will bring in the retail that the community has been yelling about," Louder said. "That’s the real positive.”

Stacie December 07, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Any additional roadwork to accommodate the planned density?
Shanna December 07, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I think it is crazy. All the apartments and way too many people. Traffic is horrible. People speeding up and down 170 and 175. Accidents causing people's deaths! And then more shopping! Who said we needed more shopping. We have arundel mills, bowie town center, we have all the shopping up in severn on quarterfield road with the super walmart, and we have the expansion of the crofton/gambrills area. I don't need 5 pharmacies to fill a perscription. All I was sad about is the superfresh leaving and I thought we needed another grocery store there, and we have gotten everything but! I am reallly upset that all those beautiful trees that our world needs so badly, got cut down for some more shopping. What would have made more sense was go to the strip and take the ALREADY DEVELOPED land and converted that area to all new shopping. And thank God I don't have anymore school aged kids. Arundel was over crowded when my kids were there. The kids will be suffering with grades if either expanding the middle and high school or building a new middle and high schools isn't done soon. Everyone thinks people that will be moving in will either have no children or very young children and that just isn't the case. I can't afford to move right now and my next 5 years or so it doesn't look like i will be able to either but I am leaving this once beautiful but now totally congested area. The only good thing about all this is my property value continues to rise.
BadStatistics December 07, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Generally speaking, approval of plans for construction may be subjected to rules relating to increased traffic/type of traffic, but are not usually contingent upon a private entity voluntarily reconstructing public roadways. There are exceptions (175, 295 @ Arundel Mills etc...), but I cannot imagine that this is going to be a high priority for developers. Look to State and Federal agencies to complete needed repairs.
Edward Charles December 07, 2012 at 01:33 PM
It is interesting to that the only road widening along MD 175 ( Parkway to Reece and beyond) was front-funded and built by a developer. The State and County are decades behind planning and funding road improvements. Look back at the Governors' looting of the transportation fund and the construction of the ICC for where the money went. Don't look to government to solve road issues in Odenton until 2030 and beyond.
Lisa O December 07, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I agree, when we moved into our house a few years ago we were happy with the community although it was already, slightly, overcrowded. Now we're looking for a way out. It is great to live 5 minutes from pretty much anything that you need, however, the population growth is ridiculous! Do we really need all of the additional apartments? Why can't we finish and fill one development without starting 2-3 others? I think the whole thing is ridiculous!
BadStatistics December 07, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Odenton is a Transit Oriented Development. It is growing because 1) New Jobs to Fort Meade, 2) Location to MARC station. If you did not see this coming years ago, I am not 100% certain where you have been. This has been a gubernatorial priority for a decade.
Elizabeth Ann December 07, 2012 at 03:33 PM
enough with the building of these homes and apartments every time I turn around, there is a new complex going up. If these new jobs at Fort Meade (regardless if you are military or not) can cover the price of the rent in these apartments and the mortgage in these homes.....where in the world do I get a job making that type of money....please tell me I want and need to know!
EA December 07, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The area is already overcrowded and roads are congested. It doesn't seem that quality of life for the residents is being considered at all. Where is the public transportation, the schools, parks, performance arts & culture. The only consideration being made by the Oversight Committee is tax revenue and developer cash. For goodness sakes, if someone lives 10 minutes away from the MARC station, they would still have to drive there. There aren't even continuous sidewalks in most areas. Odenton is taking on the density of an urban area without the conveniences.
Helen December 07, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The traffic in the area is horrible and the State and County are sadly remiss in doing anything about it. For instance the turn lane added on 170 is used more as a PASSING lane, which is illegal, especially so near Ridgefield Elementary! The widening of 175 in the Reece Rd area by the base us a joke. Rarely do I see more than a couple guys actually working but yet there are 5 or 6 other men standing around talking - assumably supervisors. When we travel both stateside and abroad we see tons of trucks and workers and the jobs being finished quickly causing less congestion, accidents and headaches. Oh no, not in AA Cty. The smallest road work takes months to years to complete. We need somebody to earn that paycheck and do their job to be sure the roads are made and repaired promptly. Many times I've seen that Virginia builds the infastructure and roads long before the businesses and residential areas are built. Its cheaper to do it now and quicker, than to let it go until congestion takes over and the state and county can't afford to buy out property owners to make the roads wider, etc etc.And then what they do do is still inadequate and may even be even more of a safety hazzard. Sure do wish we had a government at all levels who knew what they were doing and just 'get err done! '
Calique December 07, 2012 at 06:34 PM
No one is considering anything here except MONEY. It is that simple.
Diane in Odenton December 07, 2012 at 07:33 PM
The only retail that I've heard anyone "yelling about" is a grocery store to replace the old Super Fresh. Otherwise, it seems like Odenton is already surrounded by retail with the Arundel Mills complex on one side and the Waugh Chapel shopping centers on the other. And all those stores at Waugh Chapel have made travelling on Rt. 3 an even bigger nightmare than it was before. So I guess that's what we have to look forward to in Odenton after they completely inundate us with apartments and "retail" on roads not able to handle the congestion.
Dann Karlson December 07, 2012 at 08:03 PM
My primary concern is the severe lack of smart planning and the county's continued disinterest in Odenton and ensuring our community remains viable and livable. Would we see this same level of activity in Severna Park? Doubtful. The county is only interested in tax revenue which is why they are approving these complexes without any real market analysis. The fact that Odenton Station remains only half-leased speaks to the heart of this problem. Odenton already has a large supply of apartments in Piney Orchard and Seven Oaks. With the Haven, Flats 170, and the recent approval for more units near the Fire Dept. they are going to be giving apartments away. If the county really had Odenton's best interests at heart, we would see significant infrastructure improvements to accompany all the construction. Our roads are already maxed out. And what impact will all this growth have on our schools? Moreover, where's the concerted effort by the county to lure businesses here or encouraging local small businesses to open-up in all this new retail space? Instead we have an abandoned grocery store that remains without a tenant, zero retailers at Odenton Station, and hardly any other pro-business growth associated with the Odenton Town Center Master Plan. I truly hope the county reads your article, Tim, and the comments from our fellow Odentoners who are genuinely concerned about the future of our community and the direction we are heading...
James A. Hyslop December 07, 2012 at 08:41 PM
If the new apartments aren't sold the welfare dept will buy them and they will become section 8 housing, then Odenton will become the new slum district of Baltimore. It happened in Annapolis at Harbor House luxury apts.(w/w carpet, ac, and a pool) and in a short period of time the pool was dozed in because they were tired of draining it to remove broken glass. HUD had purchased the apts and turned them in to welfare housing. Firetrucks seemed to stay there as soon as the tenants discovered that to remodel or something they didn't like, fire was the easy out. I lived half a block from there I KNOW. In the 60's they rented for $250 monthly + utilities for a single bedroom, HUD changed that to $30 all included.
Helen December 08, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Perhaps the reason filling the new Town Center both retail and apts may have something to do with being out of sight back off a main thoroughfare. Is the County and or Odenton planning on buying out and mowing down the businesses blocking the view and thus opening up that needed visibility? The development is nice and perfect for Marc etc and thus commuters are a short block away to pick up the trains, but??? I heard there are already Section 8 properties reserved in all new developments. If true, it may narrow the field of choice for someone wanting to rent or buy these expensive properties.
Chris W December 08, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Exactly. They have been talking about all of this for so many years. I for one think it is great for the area. I acknowledge there will be growing pains, but that is the way things work.
Carol B December 09, 2012 at 06:41 PM
MARC is already a disaster--constant latenesses, cancellations, short and overcrowded trains, half the lights in the parking lot out, no spots available after 6:15 AM--leaves piled as high as the first stair on the west side leading up to the platform, and on and on. The last thing we need is a "development . . . perfect for MARC" when most of the existing riders have to drive to get there (and can't sell their homes and move into the apartment complex even if they want to, because all of this construction is keeping the values way under water--sorry, Shanna, but check the stats). Odenton has done *nothing* about crime in the Boom Town area since I moved here eight years ago . . . there isn't a dog park (or indeed, a human park) for miles in any direction . . . and there are empty stores in the existing Weis and former SuperFresh shopping centers, with no sign of new tenants. The "town planners" care nothing for the "town" that Odenton used to be. Granted, it needed some upgrades--but this is a pendulum swing in the too-far direction, and a disservice to all of the current residents. One of the things I found charming about the area was the open land--the farms--the suburban peacefulness within what passes in this region for a "reasonable" commute (three or more hours per day, in my case). If I wanted to live in DC or Baltimore, I could do so much more conveniently--with far more amenities than the "town planners" are planning, except those reserved for the newcomers.
Chris W December 10, 2012 at 01:14 AM
"One of the things I found charming about the area was the open land--the farms--the suburban peacefulness within what passes in this region for a "reasonable" commute" And now that YOU have found it, to heck with all the other people looking for the same thing. Where did you move here from? Wait..... don't tell me.... Mongomery County?
Carol B December 10, 2012 at 01:27 AM
No. A place just as congested as this one is about to become. Those other people looking for the same thing aren't going to find it. Your logic is astonishing, Chris.
Chris W December 10, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Not trying to be a jerk. Just pointing out that there are many people who come here seeking something that becomes less available with their collective arrival.
Carol B December 10, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Understood. But this isn't a newcomer here or there, or even an extended family with ten kids and six adults--it's a sudden onslaught of armies of people, and a virtual overnight urbanization of a semi-rural area. I came (originally) from a large small town with its own mayor and police force and town council. It expanded over the years, too--but sensibly, gradually, with appropriate planning, and consideration for the preferences of the people who were already there. This doesn't seem to involve much of that, as evidenced by the posts above. There are dollar-signs in the eyes of the people engineering this campaign--and (apparently) little else.
Chris W December 10, 2012 at 02:46 AM
This has been in the planning stages for decades. The BRAC process just finally kick started the process.
Carol B December 10, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Yes--at least since I moved here--when there were going to be 10,000 new residents that never materialized. (Lord knows what they would have done, with the utter lack of infrastructure expansion "in the planning," if they had!) Instead of home values increasing the way we were promised they were going to do when all of these new people arrived, they're lower than ever (though the sales of homes by people who arrived here in 2005 or so, at the peak of the real estate bubble, and who are now at their wits' end trying to pay ridiculous mortgages on dwindling or absent incomes has increased). Others are escaping before the chaos hits, taking what profits they can out of houses with some equity in them. Things have changed--but the plans so long in place proceeded as if they hadn't. That doesn't show much concern, or respect, for the welfare of the existing residents.
Chris W December 10, 2012 at 10:49 AM
No. Your mixing the problems that happened everywhere because of the housing market and BRAC. One can argue that we had it easy here because of BRAC. The bottom line is there was a bubble and it popped. That has nothing to to with BRAC.( No townhouse is worth $500,000. )
Michele December 10, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Odenton was named by the County as a town center in 1968 so it has taken more than 40 years for the "virtual overnight urbanization". Many of the developments have been waiting decades to come out of the ground due to a variety of constraints and it is finally happening with BRAC as a catalyst. A. J. Properties continues to be involved in working to bring about solutions to continue moving broad scope plans forward. Approx 7 million sq ft of new space is planned. View the map (tour.mapsalive.com/22579/page2) and hover over the pushpins to discover what is planned for the area at present. [Blue still awaiting completion; red completed.] If you haven’t already done so, take time to view the Odenton Town Center video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQYmmC0_jao); this map along with the video should give you an idea of the explosive growth we’re poised to receive.
Bryant January 11, 2013 at 09:13 PM
I think the Odenton Town Center complex is perfect and just what we need. Integrated retail and residential zoning instead of the sprawl that covers the region so profusely. Most of us live in town homes where walkability is a joke. Seriously, when was the last time you walked anywhere? Drive to the store, drive to pick up the kids and drive to work, all completely out of necessity because we have absolutely no population density; that's what causes congestion. A densely populated apartment complex integrated with a center of shops is actually a perfect solution. They might clog 175 getting home but once that retail center fills up, they'll walk to the liquor store, walk to the dry cleaner's, the day care, and eat out locally. Also, for those that wax moronic about how we should build up roads have no idea what you're talking about. Without fail, more roads leads to more congestion. It's called induced traffic demand and is very well documented. We have to build smarter and this is so much better than suburban sprawl. Why is it that in order to sit down for a nice meal it seems like I have to drive to Waugh Chapel (8 miles) or Arundel Mills (5 miles)?

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