Job center is planned for disabled

October 13, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

Developmental Services Group, a nonprofit agency that provides vocational training and job placement to the disabled throughout the Baltimore region, says it will build a new $2.6 million training center in Columbia.

The agency -- which annually serves about 300 people with physical and emotional disabilities -- has signed a deal with Columbia-based Manekin Corp, the commercial real estate builder and leasing giant, to build the 30,000-square-foot center near U.S. 29 and Broken Land Parkway.

The project in the Hillcroft Executive Park will shorten a waiting list of about 100 people who DSG hasn't been able to serve

because of space constraints, said Henry Posko, president of the 22-year-old agency.

"The demand for our training and job placement services has been getting higher and higher every year, but we haven't been able to take on the additional clients because we just don't have the space," said Mr. Posko.

"There are a lot of families on that waiting list who will be very happy once we open."

DSG is among seven groups providing services to the disabled in Howard County, but the county refers about 90 percent of the disabled it serves to the agency.

Rehabilitation experts say its services are the most comprehensive in the county.

The average length of time a disabled person seeking vocational training must wait to get into training is about 18 months, said Avery Smith, a rehabilitation specialist with the county's Division of Rehabilitation Services, a federal and county funded agency which provides counseling and referral services for the disabled.

"For many of those people that is way too long. So you can see that this is an extremely important project. It is a significant boon to people on the waiting list; it will mean much faster turnaround from referral to training and job placement," said Mr. Smith.

DSG, founded in Howard County in 1972, has a staff of 70 and operates on an annual budget of about $4 million. The agency charges for its services.

The majority of its clients are from Howard County. But DSG also draws a strong clientele from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Baltimore, as well as Prince George's County, said ** Mr. Posko, DSG's director.

The agency offers seven employment training programs for people with physical and emotional disabilities. These include training for the deaf, the brain injured, the chronically mentally ill and people with what are called "dual diagnosis," such as those who have both developmental and psychiatric disabilities.

The agency also provides job placement services.

DSG now operates in an 18,000-square-foot building on Gerwig Lane on Columbia's east side. It will continue to use that office once the new center is open.

Construction of the new headquarters building -- on an undeveloped parcel in the business park located off Broken Land Parkway near the U.S. 29 interchange -- is being funded by state and county bonds totaling $2.1 million. DSG also is contributing $500,000, which the agency is borrowing from Taneytown Bank & Trust.

Manekin plans to begin construction on the project next week. The project, designed by Columbia-based Nicholas & Associates, should be completed by March, said Manekin President Donald Manekin.

The project is the fifth build-to-suit commercial deal Manekin has signed this year in Columbia.

The five projects are a clear signal that the area's commercial real estate market is emerging, albeit cautiously, from one of its worst ever recessions, said Mr. Manekin.

Last year, Manekin signed only two build-to-suit projects in Howard County.

The commercial real estate construction in the county and region has been flat for several years as a result of a wave of speculative building in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"It's clearly a build-to-suit market these days," said Mr. Manekin.

"The inventory of contiguous space of 20,000 to 25,000 square feet is very tight in the region. That is forcing tenants who need to expand, like DSG, to go after a ground-up project."

Manekin has signed a number of other build-to-suit projects in Howard County this year.

The projects include a 20,000-square-foot "super store" for Borders Books & Music; a 12,000-square-foot building for Zany Brainy, which sells educational children's books, music and electronic merchandise; a new store for Blockbuster Video; and a 45,000-square-foot center for Columbia National Mortgage.

All of the projects are in Columbia.

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