For years, drivers down Telegraph Road into Odenton haven’t been greeted with the best view. The left side of the road was once home to the former Nevamar facility, a vast industrial site that once housed hundreds of local workers, but has been dormant for more than seven years.
Now a developer is hoping to inject life into the 55-acre site, with plans to redevelop the entire complex into a mixed-use project with homes and retail businesses.
Bethesda-based StonebridgeCarras has spent more than six years obtaining ownership of the various buildings on the site, and has partnered with Bozzuto Group on plans for 369 upscale apartments.
is nearly complete, and the company hopes to move forward with construction within 30 days.
“It’s been a long, hard road,” StonebridgeCarras co-founder and principal George Carras said. “It’s been more complex, more complicated and more stressful than we ever could have thought, but we’re very excited about the prospects for Odenton Town Center. We really are.”
Once the apartments are completed sometime in 2013, StonebridgeCarras hopes to move forward with plans for the rest of the site, which includes four more vacant buildings and a narrow parking lot on the east side of Telegraph Road.
It has not presented specific plans, but the company said it will be a good place for retail, including a possible grocery store or big box store. The depth of the site from the street makes the site particularly unique in the area, StonebridgeCarras officials said.
“We’re beginning to think about the next phase. We have some ideas, and we’ve done some master planning,” StonebridgeCarras principal Ellen Miller said. “It’s such a great location and such a large piece of land.”
After some internal debate and consultation, the company settled on Academy Yard as the name of the development, making reference to the area’s railroad history. The apartments will be named
The strength of the economy will play a large role in the timing of the retail portion of the project. Currently, retailers have been reluctant to move to Odenton, believing that the area hasn’t reached a proper level of population density.
But with apartment units and homes under construction—and significant growth planned by major tenants at Fort Meade —developers said it’s just a matter of time before retailers will see Odenton as the place to be.
“The real question is when, and who,” Carras said. “We think it’s a great site, but one that has to mature. We think of this as a true long-term project for us.”
StonebridgeCarras has spent millions of dollars on the Nevamar site, even before construction has started. Acquiring the land was a costly process, because the buildings on site were under the control of several different companies.
Each building on the site required environmental testing, including hundreds of borings into the soil and the extraction of vapor and other substances. International Paper, which once owned a building in the middle of the site, is in the process of completing a major environmental remediation that began in the mid-1990s.
Carras said that overall, the environmental problems on the site were not as bad as they could have been, given the industrial nature of the work that took place there. He said he’s confident that cleanup and testing will be done soon.
Concern over wetlands in the area proved to be largely unfounded, the developer said, because most wetlands on the site are in the back of the site, where the company has no plans to build.
There has been some push by local historians and former employees to preserve at least a portion of the buildings. Carras said that his company’s analysis of the buildings did not reveal anything of true historic value, though it plans to work to preserve a circular art deco mural that hangs in the rotunda of what was once the main entrance to Nevamar.
Carras said he believes the mural can be removed and hopes to find a place in Odenton where it can be displayed.
Miller and Carras said they may order the demolition of the remaining buildings soon, because they’ve been the targets of vandals, who have broken in to search for copper piping and other metal to sell.
The ultimate goal, Carras said, is to create a “northern gateway” for Odenton, with a great view for people coming into town.
“Our hope is that the experience that you get off Route 32, is to come down Route 170 and start to feel what Odenton is all about,” he said. “It’s a sign of progress.”
What do you think of the plans for Nevamar?