UMBC revives plans for campus R&D park

October 06, 1994|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,Sun Staff Writer

The University of Maryland Baltimore County has resurrected plans to develop a $100 million research and development park at its Catonsville campus, two years after a lead tenant pulled out of the venture.

The state set the plans in motion yesterday when the Board of Public Works approved a lease and a loan for the first phase of the 95-acre research park, to pay for $2.44 million in development infrastructure costs such as roads, sewers and telecommunications.

UMBC Research Park Corp. Inc., a university entity that will develop the 12-building, 730,000-square-foot park, expects to begin work in the spring of 1995 and complete the first buildings there roughly 18 months later.

The university estimates the park could create up to 2,000 jobs by 2009 and produce $2 million in county tax revenues annually.

UMBC intends to market the park to technology-based companies, including pharmaceutical firms, computer software makers and biotechnology companies. The university intends to require prospective tenants to pledge some level of cooperation with the campus, in the form of student hiring or collaborative research. In return, UMBC will provide access to faculty as well as to library and technology resources. Although no tenants have committed to the park yet, officials said various firms have expressed interest.

"By having the park on campus, it will facilitate interaction between companies and the university and be beneficial to both sides," said Bernard L. Berkowitz, president of UMBC Research Park Corp. and a senior adviser to the university on economic initiatives. "The track record across the country has shown that if you want to create that necessary synergy, it's helpful to be in a university setting."

The state's actions -- in the wake of a federal grant obtained in August -- advance a 10-year effort by UMBC, which has run into significant community opposition over fears of increased pollution and traffic. There have been other hurdles: UMBC originally anticipated breaking ground for the park in March 1992, but the plans were scuttled when Westinghouse Electric Corp. abandoned a proposed 60,000-square-foot facility there for computer software engineering amid huge cutbacks in Pentagon spending.

The park also underscores the state's effort to turn Maryland into a technology hub, leveraging existing resources such as the Johns Hopkins University, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, said E. Neil Jacobs, executive director of Baltimore County's Economic Development Department, which provided $450,000 for the park infrastructure.

"This is where the future is," said Hans F. Meyer, executive director of the Maryland Economic Development Corp., a state economic development agency working with UMBC. "The world has changed so much, and the rush to accelerate change will continue. We need to be there."

Unlike the 130-acre Bayview research park affiliated with Johns Hopkins or the 466-acre University of Maryland College Park effort, UMBC's park will be the first located on a Maryland campus.

"UMBC has the opportunity to round out the research environment in this region, and it will put more emphasis on R&D in Baltimore," said David O. Hash, president of the Dome Corp., developer of Bayview. Since its inception, Bayview has generated a $200 million investment and created 4,300 jobs.

The first phase of the UMBC park will encompass 37 acres -- environmental restrictions permit development on only 16 acres -- and is set to include four buildings totaling up to 300,000 square feet. Between 600 and 800 new jobs are expected. In all, UMBC's campus is 500 acres.

"UMBC has a number of strengths it can market to the private sector, including its location along some of the area's largest highways and proximity to both the BWI Airport and Washington," said Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development.

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