Steven S. Koren is turning the Greenspring Quarry into a
A short walk brings you to a
trailer on blocks where, since the Greenspring Quarry closed on
Dec. 31, 1999, caretakers shelter from the cold. The parking lot
where the trucks used to assemble is empty. All is quiet at the
scale system, crushing plant and screening station, where
boulders became rocks, rocks became stones, and stones became
The rutted dirt road from the
trailer to the plant is filled with ice. More dirt roads snake
back through the 258-acre site. In the distance, the hills are
covered with trees, most of them bare of leaves. Nothing stirs,
not even a bird.
The quarry isn't immediately
visible. You have to walk along the path, then jog to your left.
And there it is, a dramatic 500-foot-deep, 40-acre-wide,
oblong-shaped hole in the ground. In the middle of winter, with
seeping water freezing in sheaths along the craggy black sides,
it looks like the gaping mouth of an earth-dragon breathing ice,
In the not-too-distant future
the quarry will become a lake. Around it will be shops and
offices, a public park. The hills will be lined with homes
just like the rows of townhouses and condos on the hills across
the street, on the east side of Greenspring Avenue.
There's no doubt the
Greenspring Quarry project will have an impact on Pikesville.
Expectations are high for an upscale, quality development on the
last raw tract of this size in the community, and one of the few
such tracts left in Baltimore County.
The project isn't big enough
to become a "town center" for Pikesville, as the proposed
development of the metro station in Owings Mills is being
touted, says County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, whose 2nd
District encompasses Pikesville.
But "it could be a shining
jewel for Pikesville," Mr. Kamenetz says, a "stabilizing factor"
for the community and a "spin-off factor" to attract outsiders.
David Uhlfelder, past
president of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce and chair of its
zoning committee, agrees. In his opinion, there is no "downside
at all" to the project, as long as issues like the environment,
schools and traffic are addressed. And, given the close
monitoring by several government agencies and the community,
he's sure they will be.
"The more residential
development in Pikesville, the better," says Mr. Uhlfelder,
visions of future shoppers dancing in his head. "And if the lake
has recreational uses, that'll be a real attraction" far beyond
But before any of that
happens, the land has to meet environmental standards on three
levels county, state and federal. So far, Steven S. Koren, the
project's developer, has a Baltimore County-approved land
reclamation plan, a state Department of the Environment-approved
mining reclamation plan, and permit requests under review by the
state Department of the Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of
The corps is responsible for
streams and wetlands; the state department, water quality. Since
quarrying operations ended, the quarry has begun to fill
naturally. It now has about 130 feet of icy water.
Mr. Koren wants to speed the
process by diverting streams on the property into the quarry.
Or, as he contends, reverting them to their original paths that
miners had altered over the century-plus of the quarry's
operation. The main stream on the property is Moore's Branch,
which feeds into the Jones Falls.
According to Abbie Hopkins,
project manager for the corps' Baltimore District, its concern
is the impact of stream diversion, both on-site and downstream
off-site. The age of the quarry and a stream's historic paths
don't matter, she says. "We look at the impact on the stream
Ed Larrimore, project manager
for the mining program at the state Department of the
Environment, says the quarry's water temperature and a few other
minor points are under discussion.
The developer needs approval
from both agencies. Ms. Hopkins is non-committal, noting that
the review process has just started. Mr. Larrimore is more
It won't be "overly difficult to resolve these issues," he says,
allowing the project to proceed.
Koren Development Co. Inc. is based in a boxy office park off
Route 70 in Columbia, Md. Heavy glass doors open onto a
reception area that leads, down a hall, to the office of Steven
Koren, head of the company that has been retained by The Arundel
Corp. to develop its two quarries in Baltimore County
Greenspring Quarry, in Pikesville, and Delight Quarry, in Owings
An engineer by training, Mr.
Koren, a youthful-looking 61, isn't wearing a suit and tie.
Instead, in work boots and casual shirt, he looks ready to
field-inspect one of his projects, although it's too soon for
So early in the process is the
Greenspring Quarry that Mr. Koren is reluctant even to discuss
it. When he finally agrees, he candidly provides information but
cautions that much of it is preliminary and can change as the
Mr. Koren tends to talk in
understatements, reluctant to sound as if he's making promises
he may not be able to keep. For example, the land reclamation is
a "fairly significant" operation, he says of a job that will
require moving 1 million yards of dirt on-site, "hopefully only
Similarly, the future 40-acre lake will be "a little bigger"
than Lake Kittamaqundi. Come again? OK, he relents with a laugh,
"significantly bigger." Actually, at half the size, the Columbia
amenity comes off looking like a glorified duck pond.
In 1999, Greenspring Quarry
ceased operation in accordance with an agreement signed in 1984
between Arundel and neighboring property owners and community
groups. In return for the quarry's end as a business venture,
they agreed to support its development as long as the specified
mix of residential and commercial zoning was followed. They also
agreed to support the county legislation that vested the zoning.
At the time, Arundel owned 363
acres on the east and west sides of Greenspring Avenue. The 1984
agreement allowed a total of 1,069 housing units, divided
between 757 units on the 271-acre west side and 312 units on the
92-acre east side.
The east side was subsequently
developed as the Greenspring East townhouses. In 1998, a 13-acre
parcel on the west side was developed as the Enclave II
individual houses. Both of these communities are separate from
the current Greenspring Quarry project. In 1987, Florida Rock
Industries, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company, bought the
Baltimore-based Arundel as a wholly owned subsidiary.
Greenspring Quarry's timetable
depends on how quickly the land reclamation and the lake
transformation take. Since the quarry closed, Mr. Koren has been
busy obtaining the necessary approval and, at this point, is
ready to begin the land reclamation.
He hopes to finish that by the
end of 2001, then initiate the several-step county development
process. Mr. Koren won't be pinned down to a date but others
familiar with the project mention a 10-year-long development
process, meaning completion of the project by around 2010.
Mr. Koren does say that the
lake and the development can "blend together." In other words,
the project will probably be built in stages, and could proceed
as the quarry fills. First to be built would be those parts at
the edge of the site. However, he would prefer the lake be
substantially filled before building those parts around its
The land reclamation's goal is
to bring the site back to as natural and safe a condition as
possible. The steep slopes will be modulated; transitions
between areas, some of which are now unreachable, will be
The job is made harder by the
fact that the quarry dates to the post-Civil War era and the
environment was hardly an issue then. "If you designed a mine
today, you'd begin with a reclamation plan," he says.
The centerpiece of the
development will be the lake. When filled, it will be the
deepest in the state. Talk of a sand beach and non-power boating
activity (sunfish and paddleboats), a nearby swimming pool and a
fitness club floats in the air.
In reality, the lake is the
best, perhaps the only, solution for the quarry. Mr. Koren
acknowledges as much. Owings Mills New Town was supposed to have
a lake. It was going to be created by damming a wooded area
until the Corps of Engineers scotched the idea. In contrast, the
quarry's lake is "filling a hole in the ground," he says of the
mini-Grand Canyon in the midst of Pikesville. The lake turns a
negative into a positive.
If given permission to divert
streams on the property to the quarry, as requested, he figures
the quarry can fill within four to eight years. If not, he won't
hazard a guess although one observer has heard an estimate of 11
to 12 years.
How high does the quarry have
to fill? That's a design question Mr. Koren can't answer. Unlike
a "natural" lake formed by nature and surrounded by a uniform
edge the quarry rim varies in elevation from 340 to 490 feet.
The future lake will have a level in accord with the reclamation
Mr. Koren launches into
engineer-speak. He talks about hydrologic devices, to ensure
that the downstream flow is never less than its current level.
He describes construction of a cold-water discharge, to improve
the quality of the water that now has an abnormally high
temperature and, consequently, a high bacterial count (the
result, he suspects, of area homeowners' septic systems). He
mentions a flood safety gate, to electronically control the
For people in the immediate
vicinity who are on private wells and septic systems, these
engineering projects will have "no negative impact," he assures.
And, such is Mr. Koren's reputation that community activists
express confidence in his ability to solve the environmental
Once the development process
starts, Mr. Koren will have a better idea of the exact mix of
housing. Capped at 599 units under the 1999 agreement with the
county, it will be a combination of single-family houses,
townhouses and condominiums mostly the latter two because of
the zoning designations on the site.
The 1999 agreement did not
affect the project's commercial portion, which was set in the
1984 agreement at 60,000 square feet of retail space, 287,500
square feet of office space and a 125-room inn.
A small section of the quarry
property near Lightfoot Drive will be developed separately, 20
or so single-family houses that will not be connected by road to
the quarry development but will be counted as part of the 599
housing total. The only entrance to the quarry development will
be on Greenspring Avenue.
Mr. Koren has committed 22
acres of "public open space" to the county south of the lake
near Greenspring Avenue. It is likely to become a "passive" park
with amenities like walking paths for the Pikesville community.
He also has been asked to
consider selling additional acreage to the county or state,
reportedly at the corner of Greenspring Avenue and Old Court
Road. This area is earmarked for townhouses and selling it, he
says, would affect the overall design of the project. However,
he doesn't rule out the possibility.
It's too soon to talk about
builders for the project, although all the builders in the
region know about it and have expressed interest. Mr.
Koren is considering using different builders for the different
residential and commercial "products." County design guide-
lines will govern the project's "look." But within those
parameters, he envisions a variety of architectural styles, with
landscaping and signage providing continuity.
"We have the opportunity to
create something that's unique not only to this county but to
the region," Mr. Koren says.
A lot of people are hoping