Guesstimates on how many people will move to this area as Fort Meade gains jobs under a Pentagon base realignment plan fluctuate wildly, ranging from 10,000 to 50,000, depending on whom you ask on a given day.

Apparently, the numbers are making some Anne Arundel County residents nervous. But officials there are saying: Don't worry -- Howard County and others will help take the edge off.

"The panic that's going on in the communities is: 'Oh my God! We have tens of thousands of new jobs and new people and contractors, and they all have families and 1.2 kids,' " said Joseph Rutter, Anne Arundel County's director of planning and zoning. "But not all of them will locate in Anne Arundel County. Some will go to Howard County and Montgomery County and Baltimore County. . . . We're in the center of a very dynamic market."

That was the message delivered at a gathering with developers at Annapolis Junction this week. Anne Arundel County officials told the developers that they should lean on elected officials to help put the necessary infrastructure in place. And they suggested that companies set up shuttle buses to pick up employees from MARC stations and take them back.

Under the federal base-closing plan that went into effect Tuesday, Fort Meade should gain about 5,300 workers, most of them civilians who will not live on the post. Officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties predict there will be a spillover effect in Howard, just as there has been from the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, on the Fort Meade campus.

Restaurant Plaza Coming

Two buildings under construction in Columbia could house up to eight restaurants after they're completed early next year.

The Greene Turtle Restaurant Sports Bar Grille, Cheeburger Cheeburger, Salsarita Fresh Cantina and Atlanta Bread Co. should be open by mid-2006 at the four-acre restaurant park, which is being built by Manekin LLC at McGaw Road and Stanford Boulevard.

To make room for the two buildings, Columbia-based Manekin demolished a former GM dealership. One of the buildings is fully leased. The other has room for four small tenants in addition to Atlanta Bread Co. and Salsarita, said David Meiners, a senior developer at Manekin. The buildings combined offer 23,000 square feet of space.

"This [plaza] meets a demand," Meiners said. "There is a shortage of restaurant space in Columbia, and this is in a corporate park with five office buildings that do not have a lot of places to eat nearby."

Building a Lunar Lander

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel will help a NASA team build a spacecraft as part of a $500 million to $750 million project.

Also part of the team are the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

"The lunar lander mission will bring more jobs to Maryland and demonstrate the innovative scientific and engineering work that is being done in our state," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) in a statement announcing the contracts.

NASA hopes the spacecraft, which could launch by 2010, will help the agency learn more about landing safely and precisely on the moon and help determine whether human life can be sustained there.

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