Plans for Westminster 'jewel' outlined Carroll bank to develop office and retail complex at Farmers Supply site

January 28, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A new office and retail complex at the old Farmers Supply Co. site in downtown Westminster could be open by October 1999.

Marcus L. "Lee" Primm, senior vice president for the Carroll County Bank & Trust Co., outlined plans for the eagerly awaited development to the Westminster mayor and Common Council in Monday night. The bank project is the first of its kind in the historic part of town.

The new construction features two brick office buildings with jTC 203-space parking garage on the site, one block off Main Street. A historic stone building will be preserved and developed as a restaurant or some other pedestrian-friendly use.

"We could be looking at 200 jobs coming downtown, with the bank employees and the leased space," said Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro.

The bank will use much of the space for its operations center and as headquarters for its corporate parent, Mason-Dixon Bancshares Inc., Primm said. The rest of the space will be leased, with retail shops on the first levels.

The bank office is to begin with about 100 employees, including the 85 working at its operations center on Route 140 at Englar Road, Primm said, "and that should be an ever-increasing number."

"It's going to be the jewel of downtown," said Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. "We can't wait till it opens."

Demolition of four unwanted buildings at the site should begin in early spring, Primm said, and the planned occupancy date is Oct. 30, 1999. The project is on schedule.

"It's been a real cooperative effort," he said. "It shows how business and governments can work together."

Primm said bank officials are "still toying with the overall floor plan" for the five-story office building."

"It will have a loading dock off Green Street -- at an angle so an 18-wheeler can pull up and, in one fell swoop, fill that slot so it won't back up traffic more than a few seconds," he said.

The garage will follow the trend to a single entrance for better security, Primm said, with lots of glass and lighting for visibility and safety.

"We used a lot of glass, which isn't necessarily seen in other buildings of its kind," he said, "because security is such an issue and this is the first such structure in the city of Westminster."

The buildings will be of steel-reinforced pre-cast concrete similar to what was used at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Primm said. But the bricks will be set into molds and concrete poured over them, rather than overlaid, he said.

"The structural stability of this building should be outstanding," he said.

A model of the project was prepared by Overton & Ogburn Associates Inc. of Bladensburg, which will find a general contractor for the project, Primm said.

The $4 million to $6 million complex is seen as a cornerstone of downtown revitalization.

The project came after seven years of vacancy at the one-acre site at Liberty and West Green streets, which a 1994 consultant's report listed among four key sites for a healthy downtown.

So the city formed the nonprofit Westminster Town Center Corp. and took a nonbinding option on the property while it sought a developer.

The corporation's role in the project is to rehabilitate the stone building, which is expected to cost $400,000 to $500,000.

The building is believed to date from the 1880s, when it was part of the B. F. Shriver Canning Co. complex.

The original plan did not have the city buying the property, but that turned out to be a better approach, city officials said.

As a municipality, Westminster was able to secure federal block-grant money designated to eliminate blight.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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