APL seeks OK for modular buildings Lab ultimately plans new, permanent facility

April 03, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

In an effort to relieve crowding, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has asked Howard County officials for permission to install four modular office buildings.

APL, the county's largest private employer, filed a request last month with the Department of Planning and Zoning for a site development permit to add the four one-story, 4,800-square-foot offices to the 40 existing buildings on the 365-acre campus, off Route 29 in North Laurel.

The modular buildings are intended to be a temporary solution to the space crunch until APL gets approval for an addition and a new permanent building, said Benjamin S. Walker, an APL spokesman.

The 54-year-old research lab will apply for permits this month to add a fourth floor to one building and to build a two-story, 55,000-square-foot office facility with an option for a third story.

The planned expansion coincides with the facility's plan to hire as many as 150 employees by this summer, Walker said.

But Walker said that the hiring plan, which came two years after APL laid off more than 350 workers, was not a factor in the addition of the buildings.

"This doesn't signal a massive hiring project," he said. "It's just a modest increase."

Even so, one local official said the combination of new jobs and buildings is a sign that the economic future of the county appears healthy.

"Any time capital is invested in construction and real estate, it increase the county tax base," said Richard Story, executive director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. When you're talking about jobs and tax base, the county benefits."

Walker said the four modular buildings could be installed as early as the end of June. The timetable calls for the fourth-floor addition to be completed by the end of 1998 and construction of the new office building finished by the end of 1999.

At that time the modular buildings would be removed, he said.

Walker said the growth is driven by three needs: space for more laboratories, additional offices, and areas to house equipment to meet new Department of Defense requirements on information systems projects. The lab does more than 75 percent of its business through Navy contracts.

Walker said the space demands of the more than 100 specialized labs throughout the campus have eaten into APL's offices.

"It's squeezing out the office space," Walker said. "We don't have any room for the other employees."

Walker said he could not verify what projects would be housed in the new building, but he did say that it would give APL an opportunity to work on projects invaluable to the defense industry.

"It's a positive sign in respect that we're responding to the work out there," Walker said. "It's a sign that the lab is thriving."

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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