Arundel leases Navy center for research businesses County to buy site on Severn waterfront after study, cleanup

August 04, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

The Navy handed over the David Taylor Research Center -- 42 acres of prime, waterfront real estate -- to Anne Arundel County yesterday, capping a three-year effort to put the mothballed military base to good use.

Calling it a "long-term joint effort," County Executive John G. Gary signed a so-called master lease that will allow the county to sublease buildings on the site to private sector research and development companies.

"David Taylor has always been a unique part of Anne Arundel County, and with today's signing, we begin the next step -- making it part of the civilian world," Gary said.

The research center was determined to be an excess military site in 1995, and the Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended it be closed and sold.

Initially, the county was going to demolish the buildings on the site and sell the land to developers who wanted to build a corporate, residential and commercial complex.

But the $800,000 per-acre price for demolition proved too expensive for the county, Samuel F. Minnittee, Gary's chief of staff, said in May.

Last month, the Anne Arundel County Council agreed instead to lease the buildings from the Navy and sublease the space to high-technology companies while the Navy does an environmental study and cleanup. After the cleanup, county officials plan to buy the property.

Three companies with 130 employees are set to move to or expand their operations at the site, which has 75 buildings and 366,000 square feet of space.

County economic development officials say they hope it is the beginning of a wave of high-technology employers at the site.

David Taylor is a horseshoe-shaped property on the Severn River, whose World War II-vintage buildings capture views of the Naval Academy, yacht clubs along Spa Creek and the Chesapeake Bay. The property was developed in 1904 as the U.S. Naval Engineering Experiment Station and Testing Center. It was renamed in 1939 for Rear Adm. David Taylor, a designer and builder.

Over its life, the research center has tested submarine-silencing equipment and other highly technical and secret projects, including early rocketry and jet propulsion experiments.

Inside the horseshoe is a grassy hilltop that will remain the Navy's. Atop the hill sits Fort Nonsense, a Civil War-era post designated a historic site, which precludes development.

The main tenant, the Navy's Joint Spectrum Center, and the center's prime subcontractor, ITT Research Institute, have announced they will stay, keeping more than 500 jobs on site.

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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