Towson University economic institute might relocate to Aigburth Vale site

September 24, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Historic Aigburth Vale in Towson may be rescued yet.

A failed proposal by builder Martin P. Azola to redevelop the deteriorating, county-owned villa could be resurrected if the burgeoning Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University decides to relocate there.

"They would be the perfect tenant," Azola said. "The trick is to get them to fit."

But the economic research program, which has grown from 23 employees to more than 70 since becoming associated with the university last year, also is eyeing other properties.

"Aigburth came in late in the game," Alan Leberknight, dean of TU's School of Business and Economics, said yesterday. "It's timing. RESI is growing. We don't have a year or two to wait."

Leberknight would not disclose other locations being considered by the institute, which has outgrown rented offices at 7800 York Road, on the edge of the campus.

Azola planned to buy the French-style 1868 mansion for $500 but discontinued contract talks this month with Baltimore County, which owns the 3 1/2 -acre property. He said a redrawn flood plain thwarted plans to rent two outbuildings -- a key element in financing the initial $250,000 exterior renovation of the once-grand home of comedic actor John Owens. Before the impasse, Azola sought financial help from the county to cover the deficit while he repaired the mansion. In refusing to provide that help, county officials said money was not offered to others who submitted restoration proposals.

"They didn't want me to have an unfair advantage," Azola said.

To proceed with his project, Azola also needs a zoning change. A hearing scheduled this month was postponed.

Azola said that after discussions with the economic studies institute, he spent last weekend designing the Aigburth project with that tenant in mind.

Despite Azola's efforts, university Provost John D. Haeger said, "There's nothing formal. It's so vague right now."

But Haeger added, "One of our interests in Aigburth is that it is not far from the campus."

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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