The company that built the sprawling new town of Columbia in the mid-1960s is developing equally ambitious plans for a high-tech industrial park in Howard County's booming I-95 corridor that will rival Tysons Corner in Virginia, company officials said this week.
"It is the largest piece of business land we've ever developed, and may well be the largest single land development project in Howard County," said Edward A. Ely, vice president and director of marketing for the Howard Research and Development Co.
The company owns about 6,000 acres of undeveloped land and a 187-store mall, office buildings and industrial parks in Columbia. Ironically, the announcement of its latest project comes at a time when presistent rumors have been circulating that its Columbia holdings may be up for sale.
Company officials refused to confirm or deny the rumors, but at least two county officials say the company has received an offer for the property from a Maryland corporation.
The company has targeted a 1,500-acre tract at the intersection of I-95 and Route 175 for its latest project, an area in which Howard County is attempting to encourage high-tech development, said Frank Collins, economic development coordinator for the county.
"This is just another diamond in the jewel along I-95," Collins said.
The property, located on Columbia's doorstep, is almost "dead center" between Baltimore and Washington and is about 10 minutes from the bustling Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Ely said.
"By way of quality development and concentration of business it will be like Tysons Corner in every way except one; it won't have a mall," Ely said.
Tysons Corner, which also began as an ambitious plan to develop a largely rural area of Fairfax County, is now a bustling retail and commercial center studded with dozens of high-tech industries.
Howard Research and Development Co.'s planned industrial park is one of three major developments that have been announced in recent weeks, signaling what may be the beginning of a significant boom in office and commercial space in the I-95 corridor in suburban Maryland, according to planners.
Washington developer Kingdon Gould Jr. suffered a significant setback this week in his battle to win zoning approval for a proposed 2,000-acre "mini-city" straddling the I-95 corridor in Prince George's County.
The Prince George's County Council refused to rezone much of the tract, on which Gould said he intended to spend as much as $1.5 billion to develop 7,000 housing units and 14 million square feet of commercial, retail and office buildings.
Another Washington developer, WJB Partnership, also announced plans last week to build a $50 million hotel-office complex in Laurel. The project, also adjacent to I-95, will include twin office towers and a 500-room hotel.
"I don't foresee an oversupply of office space even with all those developments," Ely said. "The corridor as a marketplace is ready to boom. Washington is growing up I-95 and Baltimore is growing down."
Howard Research and Development already owns almost 1,000 acres along I-95 north of Route 175 and is in the process of closing a deal to buy 575 acres from General Electric Co., which owns a smaller industrial park nearby.
Planning and land development is expected to extend into early 1986, and Ely said construction is expected to begin late in the year. The land is already zoned for light industrial, he said.
"We are in the very early stages of developing and planning. There are no estimates on the square footage of development, but our plans are to do it as a very high-end, high-tech office park," he said.