Six years ago, a partnership of developers set out to turn the rusty but historic Savage Mill complex into a vibrant center for arts, shopping and dining.
Now, with the announcement of a $2.1 million package of state and private funding, the group is on the threshold of realizing its goal.
The funding package, which includes $600,000 from the Maryland Industrial and Commercial Redevelopment Fund, will help the Savage Mill Limited Partnership complete the third phase of its plan to renovate the 170-year-old complex in Howard County.
Jay Winer, general partner in the development, said he wanted to bring life to the sleepy 19th century facility that had become a warehouse. His family bought the mill in 1950 and many times ignored advice to raze it over the next 20 years, he said.
Plans to renovate the mill originated in the early 1970s, Winer said, and picked up steam after it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
"My family certainly kept it in shape and that is one of the main reasons we were able to do the renovation," said Winer, scion of the family that built, then sold, the National Plastic Products Co., which became Nevamar Corp. in western Anne Arundel County. "The buildings are structurally sound."
The complex was a cotton mill between 1822 and 1947. It has 12 buildings -- some connected -- and is sprawled along 17 acres near the Little Patuxent River in the former mill town of Savage. It contains 170,000 square feet of space.
Work on the project began in 1985, and the complex opened in 1986 as artists set up a variety of shops. Currently, Savage Mill has 170 tenants, including 100 antique dealers, 37 artist studios and 29 specialty shops.
The first two phases of the renovation cost $11 million -- mostly private funds, officials said.
The first phase started in 1984 with the addition of specialty shops and casual dining. Phase two began in 1988 and created space for antique dealers and a day-care center.
The third phase includes renovation of the last 68,000-square feet of space and the addition of air conditioning and heating. It will include space for another 100 antique dealers, a Victorian restaurant and banquet facility with an 8,000-square foot dining room and studios for artists who work in weaving, pottery, neon, stained glass and native American crafts.
"This is one of the most exciting developments we have in Maryland," Gov. William Donald Schaefer said in a statement supplied by the developer. "It shows what can be done when creative people at the state and local level work together with the private sector."
The $600,000 state grant was issued through the Howard County Office of Economic Development.
Work on the final phase is to begin later this month and should be completed by mid-1992, said Ellie Butehorn, the project's marketing director.
"We will keep the character of the buildings intact," said Butehorn, adding that the complex will remain open throughout the renovation process. "I live in a 100-year-old house so I'm familiar with renovating an old building, but this is major."