Creating 'City of Hope' Harvest International: Vacant Henryton hospital site to be used by charity.

September 15, 1997

PLANS TO TURN over an abandoned state tuberculosis hospital near Marriottsville to an international aid organization should provide needed relief for the state, for thousands of people served by Harvest International -- and relief from the pressure to use it for more housing development in south Carroll County.

The 70-acre Henryton Hospital complex of 18 shingled buildings close to Patapsco Valley State Park on the border of Carroll and Howard counties has been vacant for a dozen years, unusable by other state agencies and costing more than $100,000 in annual maintenance.

Declared surplus property three years ago, the state has been weighing proposals that included major housing subdivisions for the wooded park-like site.

The nonprofit group, based in Owings Mills, plans to develop a City of Hope that would embrace a homeless shelter, vocational training school, hospice and addiction counseling center. A training center for staff and volunteers in its world relief activities is also planned.

Harvest International expects to spend $5 million to renovate and rebuild the largely isolated complex, under a 15-year lease with the state; it can then buy the site for $1. The work includes extensive asbestos abatement, which was a hurdle for use by other state agencies.

To protect the natural fragility of the hilly property, and foster archaeological diggings for prehistoric remains, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will retain 20 of the 70 acres. That's a wise division to prevent possible damage from construction on the complex.

The state's decision in favor of the nonprofit organization also helps to stem the flow of residential housing into overburdened South Carroll, which was a major demand of the county commissioners. While Harvest International will have residential facilities on the site, it will not appreciably add to the burden on already overtaxed public services and utilities.

International Harvest's reconstruction work at Henryton may also prove helpful to Carroll County efforts to renovate the century-old Warfield complex of Springfield Hospital Center. Sykesville is expected to get that Warfield property soon, and develop it for commercial use. The experience in rebuilding Henryton could teach some valuable lessons.

Pub Date: 9/15/97

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