For nearly a decade, the burnt-out stone shell of the old Ellicott City School languished like a ruin on a hill overlooking historic Ellicott City and the Patapsco Valley.
But this spring, after months of rehabilitation, the long-abandoned property at 3700 College Ave. has been transformed into Howard County's newest luxury residential complex, a 20-unit development called the Greystone condominiums.
A sales center and furnished model opened last month for the condominiums, which represent the first phase of a 4.5-acre, $8 million development that will include 28 three-story town houses.
The developer is Greystone Associates Partnership, a group headed by Robert Boggs of Annapolis and Louis Cimaglia of Washington. They acquired the property last year from another group that had begun restoring the school for residential use.
"This project really appealed to me," said Mr. Boggs, a transplanted Texan with extensive construction experience. "It's a unique property and a unique area. Sitting on top of that hill, you overlook the whole city."
The four-story stone building dates from the first half of the nineteenth century, when it was built to house a private academy for men. A Catholic order purchased the school in 1857 and renamed it Rock Hill College. The college was destroyed by fire in 1923, but a combined elementary and high school for Ellicott City was built within its 18-inch-thick stone walls by 1926. That school closed in 1976, after Worthington Elementary School opened on Roundhill Road.
The interior of the stone building was burned out again in 1982, but its walls remained.
Available for immediate occupancy, the Greystone condominiums have 12-foot ceilings, a state-of-the-art security system, private yards or balconies in many units and other deluxe features. Prices range from $149,900 for a one-bedroom unit to $315,000 for a fourth-floor penthouse.
Work began recently on the three-story town houses, which will surround the old school on three sides. Amenities include built-in garages, decks, oversized windows and lavish master bedroom
suites. Prices range from $185,000 to $207,000, and the first town houses will be available for occupancy before summer.
Mr. Boggs hopes to appeal to young professionals or empty nesters who might work in the Baltimore-Washington corridor but want to move up to a residence that is a bit out of the ordinary.
Although the exterior walls date from the 1840s, "it's totally rebuilt inside," he said. "There's nothing else in Ellicott City like it in terms of the quality and amenities that go along with this kind of construction."
Mr. Boggs, 51, moved to Maryland from Texas two years ago, when the economy there went sour. He previously worked on the construction of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the Air Force Finance Center in Denver and numerous custom-built homes in north Dallas. Mr. Cimaglia, a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, owns Garrett Ltd., an interior design firm in the Washington area.
Greystone is one of three Maryland projects Mr. Boggs has worked on, he said.
The first was the Coconut Malorie hotel in Ocean City, which recently opened at 57th Street on the bay side of town.
The second is the ongoing development of about 100 scattered residential lots acquired from Cardinal Industries, which filed for protection from creditors under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code more than a year ago. Mr. Boggs is building houses ranging in price from $79,000 to $165,000 on the scattered lots, most of which are in Anne Arundel County.
Design Services Inc. of Ellicott City was the architect for the Greystone condominiums. Michalene Davis, Judith McCarty and Sharon Cimaglia of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn Realtors are the sales agents for Greystone. The model is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Mr. Boggs said he hopes to sell all of the Greystone residences by summer and is already looking for other possible projects in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
"The housing market is definitely on an incline," he said. "It's not -- growing by leaps and bounds, but it is growing on a daily basis. I'm very optimistic."