Relief agency to use abandoned hospital City of Hope will aid poor, train volunteers

September 12, 1997|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN STAFF

An international relief organization plans to turn an abandoned state hospital in Marriottsville into a City of Hope for the poor and disadvantaged, eventually adding a training center for the organization's volunteers.

The 18 buildings on 50 acres of Henryton Hospital, built in 1923 as a tuberculosis center, have been awarded by the state Board of Public Works to Harvest International, a nonprofit relief organization based in Owings Mills. The organization plans a $5 million renovation during the next nine years and would be responsible for the costs, according to an agreement approved Wednesday.

The project is expected to encompass a homeless shelter, a vocational training school, a hospice and an addictions counseling center. It would be called City of Hope.

It would become the distribution and disaster relief headquarters for international projects and volunteer training for the organization and provide transitional housing for families in crisis.

"Our vision of the campus is that it will be a little city with an atmosphere full of the experience of hope for those who have no hope," said Lisa M. Hargrove, spokeswoman for Harvest International. "We want to help people to successful lives."

Samson Doolin, director of Harvest International, said government plans to decrease welfare rolls have created a climate conducive to the project.

"Our premise is to give hope," Doolin said. "When people who are hurting find hope in the future, that gives them power in the present."

About 20 of the original 70-acre hospital site -- south of the hospital along the Patapsco River -- will be deeded to the Department of Natural Resources.

"There is the potential for prehistoric archaeological sites, and we also want to protect some rare plant life," said Steve Cassard, assistant secretary for real estate at the state Department of General Services.

Harvest International, a subsidiary of Lifelink, an 11-year-old international relief organization based in Tulsa, Okla., expects to sign a 15-year lease by Oct. 1 for an annual rent of $5,000, with an option to buy the property once the lease expires.

The organization has evaluated each building with consultations from restoration architects, who have developed drawings for all the projects. Doolin is aware of the dilapidated condition, Cassard said.

Long-range vision

Those details and the long-range vision impressed the state, Cassard said.

"They gave us a strong proposal to develop the property into an international relief and community service center," Cassard said. "They are working with a design and construction team skilled in adaptive reuse projects.

"If the state was giving the property to a nonprofit, it was incumbent on us to give it to an organization that would see the job through," he said. "Harvest International is a strong organization [that] offered a strong proposal to redevelop the entire parcel in three phases."

All work will be subject to Carroll County planning and zoning ordinances.

During the first three-year phase, estimated to cost $1.5 million, plans are to concentrate on homeless services, addictions rehabilitation, vocational training, a food bank and a disaster relief center.

Hospice

Phase two would create an international training center for the organization's relief and development volunteers. The final phase would involve a family support center and a hospice.

Doolin said he realized the size of the task he faces, but "we can marshal all our resources and handle it." The organization relies on public and private donations.

Officials said the state found the proposal the most viable option for the vacant buildings, which cost about $100,000 a year for minimal maintenance and security.

The state built Henryton as a tuberculosis hospital and converted it to a center for the developmentally disabled in 1962. When its patient population dropped below 100 in 1985, the hospital closed. The property with 228,000 square feet in 18 buildings has been vacant since.

Surplus

Three years ago, the state declared Henryton surplus.

"Since its closure in 1985, the state has evaluated several reuse plans and determined that Henryton did not meet the needs of the state economically or functionally," Cassard said. "The marketplace clearly confirmed that the cost to demolish or renovate minimized the value of the property."

After extensive advertising and two open houses, the state received offers for the conservation-zoned property, many from residential developers proposing to tear down the buildings and create a large subdivision.

Carroll County, struggling with the demands of residential growth in South Carroll, has opposed any more multifamily developments, state officials said.

The Department of General Services reviewed six proposals for Henryton, which Cassard called "a very challenging property" because of its hilly, wooded terrain and its aging buildings. Asbestos abatement and renovations proved too costly for most prospects, he said.

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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