Building for the future at Springfield Carroll County: Industrial campus plan offers brightest hope for economic growth.

March 27, 1997

THERE'S MUCH TO LIKE about the state's proposal for future use of the vacant Warfield complex of Springfield Hospital Center: industrial tenants and taxes, preservation of the historic 18th-century brick buildings, no dependency on immediate widening of Route 32.

The plan for the 131 acres developed by consultant Legg Mason Realty Group for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene seems to rule out the idea of a concert arena for the southeast Carroll site.

The concept of an industrial campus, mixing light manufacturing with professional offices, is an exciting one for South Carroll. If successful, it could become the catalyst for the most important business development in the county. This prime parcel could be an attractive showcase for what Carroll has to offer business.

Legg Mason identified several major uses for the renovated complex, from a private school campus to retirement residences, but the emphasis is on business/industrial development. It also recommends turning the Warfield site over to Carroll County, instead of a private developer. The state has declared the property "surplus" in preparation for the county takeover. But that may not end the struggle between the county and Sykesville for control of the valuable land; the town still wants to annex the property after it leaves state hands.

The plan provides for leveling at least one non-historic building to create useful space, while red-lining much of the area as environmental wetlands protected from construction.

Job creation and industrial tax base are priorities for Carroll in development of the site. Jobs will be especially crucial if the state closes Springfield mental hospital by the turn of the century, a distinct possibility. More than 800 people still work at the regional facility.

Besides examining best land uses, the consultants talked with 50 groups to determine what the community wants for the Warfield property. The result is a study that addresses both the site's capability and desirability.

The county must make its proposals, consistent with the Legg Mason plan, to the state by next month. Bigger challenges lie ahead: convincing solid businesses to locate there and making the needed, costly renovations to maximize the site's promise.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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