State to house agency at Martin plant

July 07, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

The state Department of Juvenile Services will move its headquarters to a building owned by Martin Marietta Corp. in Middle River as part of a state plan to help Martin Marietta assure the future of the company's Middle River plant, which has been hit hard by post-Cold War defense spending cuts.

"I view this as no different than any other form of financial assistance," said Hans F. Mayer, executive director of Maryland Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public corporation that is to lease the partly empty building from a Martin subsidiary and sublet it to the state. "This provides a short-term solution to their [Martin Marietta's] problem and presents a short-term solution for the department."

The deal to lease 48,542 square feet of the five-story building at 2323 Eastern Blvd. sets off a larger restructuring of offices at the Department of Juvenile Services, which had been expected to move its headquarters from an older building at 321 Fallsway to 6 St. Paul Centre, the old Merritt Commercial Savings & Loan Association tower the state bought last year.

The five-year deal is slated for a vote next Wednesday by the state Board of Public Works, said Dave Humphrey, a spokesman for the state Department of General Services.

"It's not a done deal" until the board votes, Mr. Humphrey said.

Juvenile Services will move its headquarters and a training facility now based in Ellicott City to Middle River, Mr. Humphrey said. The Ellicott City office will use its newly freed space to expand its ability to counsel and supervise juveniles, including criminal offenders, children deemed in need of supervision, and young people getting services unrelated to any criminal charges.

Then Juvenile Services will close field offices at 2500 Eutaw Place and 2406 Greenmount Ave. and move the officers who aid juvenile clients at those offices to the Fallsway building, Mr. Humphrey said.

Mr. Mayer said DEED approached Juvenile Services with the idea of moving to the airport, pitching the department on the economic development benefits of the move. "DEED made them [DJS] aware that we were looking at it from that perspective," he said.

But DEED Secretary Mark L. Wasserman said that the final decision belonged to Juvenile Services Secretary Mary Ann Saar. "I could only twist her arm," Mr. Wasserman said. "I couldn't batter it."

Jacqueline Lampell, a spokeswoman for Juvenile Services, said she has been asked not to discuss the plan publicly until after the Board of Public Works vote.

The state Department of Economic and Employment Development has been working since last year on a plan to save the Middle River plant and the 1,600 jobs there. The plant was spared in a Martin restructuring announced Sept. 30 that closed 10 plants and eliminated 2,000 jobs after the Bethesda-based defense contractor bought General Electric Co.'s aerospace division for $3 billion.

Until weeks before the restructuring, the Middle River plant had been one of many plants on a list slated for closure. After the closings, Maryland officials said they still considered the Middle River plant's future in doubt. But a major contract from General Electric to build thrust reversers, which act as brakes for jets as they land, removed the cloud from the plant's immediate future December.

Company executives often refer to Middle River as the corporation's "mother plant." Opened in 1929, the site served as the corporation's headquarters and primary production facility for three decades, employing at one time 53,000 workers.

In October, Mr. Wasserman promised "appropriate but daring" incentives to help Martin keep the Middle River plant open but said state help alone could not save the plant. The company makes aerospace equipment such as missile launchers at the complex.

Yesterday, he said the lease is to be the only state assistance to the plant.

"In our discussions with Martin officials, they made clear that part of the competitiveness puzzle for them was finding a way to relieve them of the burden of that office space," he said. "There wasn't a gun to our heads on this at all."

Martin Marietta spokesman Don Carson said the lease is basically a break-even proposition, which he said is better than losing money carrying a half-empty office building's debt service.

"We're not paying every month for empty space," he said.

The deal for the Middle River lease was the biggest new office lease of the year so far in Baltimore County, said Thomas C. Jackson, research director for Casey & Associates, a Baltimore commercial real estate brokerage and management firm. It approximately equals the largest new lease in Baltimore City, in which the Annie E. Casey Foundation leased 48,000 square feet on St. Paul Street. Several larger tenants have renewed leases in 1994.

The state's rent will give Martin about $600,000 annually for surplus office space that would have been difficult to lease to private-sector tenants because of the building's location in Eastern Baltimore County, far from established office districts. But Mr. Mayer said the cost of maintenance, heat and other services will reduce that take by one-third or more.

The $11.90 per square foot annual rent is one cent less per foot than the rate Juvenile Services has been paying for older space downtown, Mr. Humphrey said.

He and Mr. Mayer said MEDCO leased the building from Martin Marietta because it could deal directly with one landlord to make the deal. General Services, which handles most of the state's real estate affairs, would have had to make a formal request for proposals and would have had to consider all the buildings whose owners answered the request.

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