Westminster buys the National Guard Armory for $1 -- with strings attached City must preserve, renovate building CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

September 02, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Maryland sold the old National Guard Armory on Longwell Avenue to the City of Westminster yesterday for $1, but imposed three conditions.

The Board of Public Works approved a sale agreement that binds the city to renovating the building, preserving its historic facade and keeping it in community use.

City officials had agreed earlier to the conditions.

The agreement capped more than 16 months of negotiations by Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, with state officials. Mr. Brown initiated the city's effort to buy the building. Mr. Dixon persuaded the state to waive a section of the 1980 lease agreement in which the city agreed to pay the 1980 appraised value of $190,000 for the armory.

Mr. Dixon said the building will be an important addition to the city.

"Being someone who grew up in Westminster, I used to walk down to the playground [in the adjacent park] to play. It was an armory then, and I have fond memories of it," he said.

Mr. Brown said he wants the city to "continue what we've been moving on, developing more family recreation programs" for the facility, which has been used as a recreation center for years.

The City Council plans to expand recreation programs, make the armory accessible to the disabled and convert part of the basement space -- formerly occupied by city police -- to office space.

The council allocated $347,000 in its 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 budgets for renovations.

The Maryland Historical Trust asked the state to bar changes to the building's facade. The armory, built in 1917, "exhibits a medieval architectural style," preservation officer Lauren L. Bowlin wrote in her assessment.

Council President Kenneth A. Yowan reported tentative agreement on the sale in July. The conditions remained unchanged, but the token fee dropped this summer from $100 to $1.

Paul Schurick, an aide to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, credited Mr. Dixon with saving Westminster the extra $99.

"He came to see the governor on behalf of the city and asked [for a] transfer of ownership for $1, and they basically shook hands on it," Mr. Schurick said.

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