Building bought for county offices

March 31, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Howard County government has taken advantage of the recession and bought an unused five-story office building in Columbia for 40 cents on the dollar.

"It's the deal of a lifetime in terms of savings," County Public Works Director James M. Irvin told the County Council yesterday at a briefing on the sale.

The 90,000-square-foot building in Columbia Gateway Corporate Park near Routes 108 and 175 will be used to house most county departments now renting office space. The building will also house the professional development facility of Howard Community College.

Among the departments making the move to the brick, masonry and glass building will be Citizen Services, Economic Development, and the Fire Administrator's Office. The county is now renting space for those departments at locations in Ellicott City and elsewhere in Columbia.

The government's goal is to transfer every office and department now renting space to the Gateway building or some other county-owned property, Mr. Irvin said.

The county paid $3.7 million for the $10 million building. The cost of adapting the building will be about $2.3 million, Mr. Irvin said, bringing the total cost to $6 million.

There is enough space in the new building for the county to house everything it wants and still have room to grow, Mr. Irvin told the council. "There is space for a cushion."

But don't expect the building to be occupied overnight, Mr. Irvin said. It first must be adapted to the county's needs. Mr. Irvin expects departments assigned to the new building to be housed there within the next two years.

Even with the cost of that adaptation thrown in, the building is still cheaper than the county could build from scratch, Mr. Irvin said.

Renting would also be more expensive.

It would cost the county $6 million more to rent the space it needs for the next 20 years than amortize the cost of the Gateway building and the improvements at 6 percent interest during that time, Mr. Irvin said.

Based on recent bond sales, the savings could be even greater. The county has been averaging 5.2 percent or less on recent issues.

In addition to price, other factors making the building attractive are the accessibility from Interstate 95 and Routes 175 and 108, the availability of restaurants and convenience stores within walking distance, and the amount of space available for parking -- 20 more acres if necessary.

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