Developer Howard S. Brown has started work on the first office building at Metro Centre in Owings Mills.


The 200,000-square-foot, mixed-use office and retail building is scheduled to be completed by summer 2016, said Brown, chairman of David S. Brown Enterprises Ltd. The speculative project will have first-floor retail and would be an ideal space for a medical facility, such as an outpatient care center, Brown said.


Brown said he’s confident building on spec because of the site’s proximity to public transit, I-795 and I-695, allowing the project to attract tenants from the regional office market, not just Owings Mills. Lynn Abeshouse, managing principal with Abeshouse Partners, is handling leasing for Metro Centre.


The building’s steel frame is going up and stairway towers are already completed at the construction site, which sits in the middle of Metro Centre. The four-story office building will connect on two floors to an existing nine-story parking garage that accommodates 3,000 vehicles. The building, including the linked parking garage, will cost more than $50 million to build, Brown said.


The Class-A building is the beginning of 1.2 million square feet of office space planned for the development, which is adjacent to the Owings Mills Metro Subway station. The project also is slated to include 1,700 apartments, 300,000 square feet of retail and a hotel. A new branch of the Baltimore County Public Library and a satellite of the Community College of Baltimore opened at Metro Centre in 2013.


Two Metro Centre apartment buildings are already complete, combining for 232 units. The apartments are 75 percent leased, Brown said.


The 56,000 square feet of retail space beneath them is 60 percent leased so far, but Brown said that doesn’t worry him. He’s focused on building out the office and residential structures, and creating an environment that will attract traffic-generating tenants who fit his vision. He’s seeking tenants who will provide residents and office workers with amenities and services they’ll use daily, as well as night-life entertainment. One of his newest tenants, for example, is a shoe cobbler.


“We’re being very selective in getting the right kind of tenants,” Brown said Tuesday.


“This is where we expected to be” in terms of leasing pace, he said. “This is really a very aggressive project that needs a lot of volume. You need to create an atmosphere. It takes a little time to do that. This is not a strip shopping center. This is really a town center, like a small city. It’s like going to New York and going down to Chelsea or the Meatpacking District. And that doesn’t happen overnight.”


Retail space at the nearby Foundry Row mixed-use development is already 86 percent pre-leased, said Clarke Aburn, senior vice president of leasing for project developer Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp. And construction only just started on the $140 million project. Foundry Row, anchored by Wegmans, will have 340,000 square feet of retail.


Brown says he doesn’t see Foundry Row as a direct competitor to Metro Centre.


“That’s a grocery-anchored shopping center,” he said. Metro Centre is about creating “an urban setting with restaurants and bars on the ground floor. People today are looking for that urban living situation. That’s what we’re doing. You have activity here seven days a week, morning, noon and night.”


Eggspectations, a breakfast restaurant, is also moving into 6,000 square feet at Metro Centre, joining tenants like Fractured Prune doughnut shop and Honey House, which sells honey products harvested from the Eastern Shore. Brown says he’s acquired 11 liquor licenses for other restaurants and taverns that might move in.


The next phase of the development is a high-rise apartment building, with 385 apartments spread across two towers of 18 and 11 stories, Brown said.