For more than a decade, the calls for redevelopment have echoed throughout the Route 1 Corridor. Plans have emerged, ideas have been tried and slow, methodical progress has been made.
But what has remained consistent through all this process is that Route 1 continues to be a tough nut to crack.
Like other projects in the county, the Route 1 Corridor faces a special set of issues that are uniquely its own. Intersecting more than 11 miles of the county, its lack of a central location, combined with its different personalities and the needs of each section, result in unique challenges.
In other words, what ends up being the right solution for one part of the Corridor often does not work with another part, making it impossible to apply a “one size fits all” answer to its overall needs.
However, during the past five years there have been new projects springing up along the eastern edge of the county. Led by the private sector, the public sector and the State Highway Administration, change is slowing occurring along the Corridor.
Large communities like Howard Square and Blue Stream have created vibrant and desirable residential communities and brought residents to Route 1. Additional residential projects are in the plan for years to come, including a 1,000-unit transit oriented development (TOD) project at the Laurel Park MARC station.
There also has been an increase in the private sector investment along Route 1. Many new commercial buildings have been constructed or are under construction, especially those catering to the rapidly expanding food distribution industry. This will bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in investment.
In addition, it was recently announced that BTS Bioenergy had selected two potential locations along Route 1 to construct state-of-the-art biodigestion facilities to recycle food waste, with the company investing $40 million to construct the facilities.
And last year, it was announced that Freshly would locate its new east coast facility in the former Coastal Sunbelt location, bringing 500 new jobs and private investment to the region; that building was only available because of Coastal Sunbelt’s decision to remain in the county and construct its 330,000-square-foot building that will employ 1,500 people. It opened in 2016.
Additionally, there has been increased investment from retail and restaurants opening along the route. In 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Co. opened its doors and has since expanded several times; in Jessup, CVS completed construction on its building, while up the road the announcement was made that Mutiny Pirate Bar selected Troy Hill Drive for a new location.
Also, the Guinness Tap Room selected a location directly north of the county line to build its first tap room in the U.S. since the 1950s.
The Howard County government has also played a role in bringing new amenities and services to the Corridor during the last five years. At 101 acres, Troy Hill Park became the county’s eighth regional park, offering residents access to new athletic fields and a playground right near the intersection of routes 1 and 100. In 2013, the county opened the doors of Duckett’s Lane Elementary, in Elkridge; and in the nearby community of Oxford Square, the county also completed the construction of the Thomas Viaduct Middle School, in 2014, and plans to open Elementary School No. 42 next door in August 2018, both of which service the residents of the Route 1 Corridor.
In 2013, the county relocated the Savage Volunteer Fire Co. into a new location on Route 1, and in 2018, it will open the new Elkridge Volunteer Fire Station. Construction continues as well at the Elkridge Branch Library and 50-Plus Center, which will open in 2018.
Even as new developments are being made, the key challenge continues to be striking a balance between the area’s industrial base and residential base. Route 1 has a long-standing tradition of being a major distribution and manufacturing hub, not just for Howard County, but for the entire region. The central location between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as major projects like the Maryland Food Authority, have been attracting businesses to the area for more than 50 years. These businesses, and their large warehouses and trucking fleets, have also brought many of the county’s jobs with them.
In Howard County, the trade, transportation and utilities industries, when combined, represent the second-largest employment sector, with more than 20% of the jobs in the county classified in these categories. A large number of those jobs are located along the Route 1 Corridor.
The only industry sector larger is the professional and business services category, with 27% of the market share.
However, the businesses that call the Corridor home have been slowly evolving over the years, as well.
Nestled in the business parks are many technology and advanced manufacturing companies, showing a change in the winds for the area. These businesses include wind tunnel manufacturer Aerolab, which moved to Route 1 in 2015; drone manufacturer UAV Solutions, which expanded by 60,000 square feet in 2014; Autobahn Indoor Speedway, which invested $1.75 million on an indoor electric go-kart racing facility in 2013; biopharma distributer Cavalier Logistics, which invested heavily in a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical cold storage facility this past year; and Coastal Sunbelt, which opened the nation’s most advanced food processing facility in 2016.
As the county looks ahead and building vacancy rates remain low, it is expected that even more high tech companies will begin looking to the eastern edge of the county to grow their business.
Development and investment continues all along the Corridor in small pockets, but it is these combinations of projects that will lead to a greater Route 1 community. The redevelopment of the Corridor does not just effect the residences, but also the businesses, as well.
To be successful in redevelopment, the needs of both groups need to be considered and balanced to create an environment where they both can grow together, even side by side.