Only the skeleton of the three-story office building has been erected, but officials who gathered at the dusty construction site along Route 301 declared they were looking at the future of White Plains.
The rising building is the first of eight planned at the White Plains Corporate Business Park, which will provide 225,000 square feet of office and warehouse space that, officials said, will make it the area's center of professional business life.
"This will be the largest employment center in the future of Charles County," said Aubrey Edwards, the executive director of the Charles County Economic Development Commission. "The future is now."
The initial building, going up on the west side of Route 301 between Demarr and Billingsley roads, will contain 60,000 square feet of office space and house eight to 10 businesses, said Mike Dulisse, director of land development for Brandywine Co. Properties, which is developing the office park. The $8 million office building is being equipped with cable Internet connections, fiber-optic telephone lines and satellite communications capabilities to make it attractive to high-tech tenants, he said.
Officials who convened late last month for the groundbreaking ceremony under a yellow and white tent said the office park represents an opportunity to attract the types of high-paying jobs that would entice residents to remain in Charles County rather than commute to Washington.
"This is Charles County's turn," said Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners. "We are going to be a county with rising incomes, rising property values and good jobs."
Construction began in May and is scheduled to be completed in February, officials said. The remaining buildings planned for the roughly $30 million office park will be completed over the next five to seven years, Dulisse said. The plans envision a bank, a day-care center, retail stores, four ponds, a fountain and a small park. The first office building will include a gym, a large atrium and interiors that feature custom granite and wood paneling, officials said.
Mama Stella's, an Italian restaurant in Clinton, plans to open a location just north of the main office building.
"This place needs high-quality restaurants," said Giani Goumis, the son of the restaurant's owner, who plans to be head chef at the White Plains location. "I think people are thirsty for it."
No tenants for the first building have been announced. But Alvin Meinhardt, owner of Brandywine Co. Properties, said office buildings he built in Waldorf filled up rapidly, and he said he is confident the same will happen in White Plains.
"We really do perceive that there will be a demand for the office space," he said.
The county commissioners helped clear obstacles to the office park by rezoning the area to accommodate the commercial use. The county also spent about $8 million to bring sewer service to the site, installing a pump station, more than two miles of gravity-powered sewer lines and three miles of pressurized-force main.
"This is going to be Charles County's business center," said Commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata). "And we're looking forward to it."