Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Transit-inspired Development

We don't know what surprised us more about this story in the Sun-- that Coca-Cola never built a bottling plant off Coca-Cola Drive (didn't the county give them a sweetheart tax break and low-interest loans to do just that?) or that county officials claim they never considered the possibility that land near a commuter rail station might be ripe for development.

No matter, county planning director Marsha McLaughlin told the paper she welcomes a proposal by a developer to build a residential-office-retail complex near the MARC rail station in Elkridge. It would be the third such mixed-use proposal near an area MARC station, the others being by Savage and Laurel.

The Oxford Square project would be built off Coca-Cola Drive, near the Anne Arundel County line, and would include an unusual twist. The development would be situated just north of Route 100, while the Dorsey MARC station is south of the freeway. To bridge the gap, Lutherville-based developer Preston Partners Inc. has proposed a 1,400-foot-long walkway and bicycle path along the CSX railroad tracks on an existing street that goes under the highway. A transit stop inside the development would also feature shuttle service to the station.

A change to the land's industrial zoning wasn't considered during comprehensive rezoning in 2003 because Coca-Cola was still considering the bottling plant, though more than a decade had passed since it was proposed. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises purchased the property for $15.1 million in 1992, when it planned a state-of-the-art bottling facility. The company never built a plant, in part because of shifting consumer tastes and the rising popularity of brands of water, juices and teas, a Coca-Cola spokesman said.

"We just never even looked at it, because it was on the other side of the tracks," McLaughlin said. "It wasn't high on the radar."

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