Boon is seen in renovation of Warfield Officials anticipate economic benefits for South Carroll

'A marvelous collection'

14 buildings could be used as private school, offices or residences

March 30, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Renovation of the century-old Warfield buildings at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville will spur economic development in South Carroll, town and county officials say.

The Warfield Complex -- 14 buildings near the south entrance of the hospital campus on Route 32 -- give visitors a "sense of history and a real sense of the place," said Joseph M. Cronyn, vice president of Legg Mason Realty Group.

Cronyn was coordinator of a state-commissioned study, released last week, that advocates renovation and industrial development on the 131-acre site.

"You can't build anything like them anymore," Cronyn said of the Warfield structures. "They are irreplaceable."

John T. Lyburn, the county director of economic development, has repeatedly stressed the need to have industrial sites prepared for business prospects. County and local officials think that once Warfield is renovated, private businesses will take an interest in Sykesville and South Carroll.

"Our role is to get infrastructure to a site and make it attractive to prospects," Lyburn said.

That approach has paid off at business sites in Eldersburg, Westminster and Hampstead, he said.

State health officials recently took the first step toward making Warfield available for sale or lease. The county hopes to be first in line to purchase or rent the property.

"There is no quick fix," Cronyn said of what could be a 15-year project. "Even if the state were ready tomorrow, it does not mean there is a market demand. But, somebody has to put this together."

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said the town is better situated than the county to control such a project.

Warfield could be an extension of the town's main street and its historic district, he said. The mayor noted that he will continue to push for the town to annex the property.

High-ranking state officials, including Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, have looked favorably on the town's proposal.

Annexation promoted

"Annexation would provide consistency for a 20-year project, ensuring compatibility with the surroundings," Herman said.

"Elected officials come and go. The town will be here in 20 years; today's leaders probably will not. We want something in place to see what could be a 20-year project through."

The town could be the best steward for the property, said Matthew H. Candland, town manager.

"You need a public entity to make sure Warfield is developed by plan," Candland said. "With Warfield in our back yard, Sykesville has the most at stake."

Legg Mason made its Warfield report public Monday at a gathering of about 100 officials and residents.

Cooperative venture option

Cronyn suggested a cooperative venture, with the county and state working on infrastructure. As lots were developed, those costs could be recaptured.

Warfield would be the second section of the Springfield property adapted for other uses. The state is renovating the Martin Gross Complex as part of its $46 million police training facility.

The two projects would reduce the hospital's operating budget and make it a less likely target for closing, said Paula Langmead, Springfield superintendent. Springfield is one of three state hospitals Maryland officials are considering closing by the end of the century.

"With two sites developed, it will provide a whole better look for the hospital, reduce our overhead and make us cost-effective," Langmead said. "Their effect on the hospital budget will enhance the hospital's chances of staying open."

Donald R. Kann, a Baltimore-based preservation architect who called the site "a marvelous collection," helped the town with its annexation proposal and contributed to the Legg Mason effort.

"The buildings are in fine shape structurally," Kann said. "Although there are specific problem areas, the Warfield buildings are sound and adaptable for other uses. You can build from these buildings."

Costs 'justifiable'

The most costly challenge in renovating the buildings, which were constructed during the first quarter of the century, would be removal of asbestos and lead paint. That would cost an estimated $2 million.

"Given their stability, the cost to abate lead paint and asbestos is justifiable," Kann said.

The study included a nationwide search to determine how other areas have reused similar sites.

"We are at the leading edge of the whole process," Cronyn said. "Nationally, similar projects have become prisons or adapted for noneconomic uses. We want to do something that somebody can make money out of."

The study identified three possible uses:

A private secondary school or satellite college campus. Most of the buildings could easily be renovated into classrooms.

Professional offices. The buildings are ideally suited to the needs of attorneys, accountants and physicians, Cronyn said.

Residences for the elderly. Warfield could be converted into about 150 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

'Cohesive setting'

"There are many redevelopment options," Kann said. "This is a wonderfully cohesive setting with a well-defined appearance."

The property also offers land for new buildings, but Cronyn said any construction must be consistent with existing structures.

Much of the study dealt with the development potential of the buildings, but Cronyn also spoke of possible new gateway buildings -- a high-quality business park with mixed uses -- at the Route 32 entrance.

Recreational potential

Since much of the property has been designated as wetlands, there will be ample opportunities to provide green space.

"There is much potential for recreational or passive uses, all of which adds to the quality of life," Cronyn said.

A Springfield task force -- made up of county and town officials and business and community leaders -- will review the study and make its recommendations in 30 days.

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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