Sykesville proposal would add 1,200 jobs Town vision includes college campus, hotel on state hospital site

November 20, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A small town's sweeping vision for renovating part of a state mental hospital in Carroll County could create 1,200 jobs, build -- an 80-room hotel and lure an international college to Maryland, according to details of the plan announced to county officials yesterday.

In a presentation to county economic development leaders, Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said the town has prospects for more than 60 percent of a 131-acre complex at Springfield Hospital Center.

The state plans to give the town the property, which runs along Route 32 in South Carroll and includes 14 historic buildings.

Herman said the town has a letter of intent from Touro College, an international medical, law and health sciences institution based in New York City. The college is interested in opening a satellite campus using several of the buildings on the property, which is known as the Warfield Complex.

In an economic model presented to the commission, consultant Frederick W. Glassberg detailed plans for restoring 200,000 square feet of existing space and building 205,000 square feet, including an 80-room hotel the state and town would develop.

"We can rehabilitate and use almost all the historical buildings," he said. "An auditorium

and cafeteria are there to serve users. The Hubner and T-buildings can be converted into assisted living units and provide educational opportunity for health-care students."

The plan said the county would reap $450,000 in property taxes annually, with the state getting $1.4 million and town $135,000 -- nearly 10 percent of its annual budget. The town and state would share profits from developing the site.

Touro College officials have met with the town and plan to apply for state accreditation within the next few weeks. Touro has 9,500 students at its main campus in New York and is about the size of Columbia University there. It was founded in 1960 by Bernard Lander and has campuses in California, Israel, Austria, India and Russia.

"We feel the Warfield Complex offers us beautiful buildings," said Ed Finder, Touro College spokesman. "Our engineers have had a preliminary look and found the buildings in good condition."

Though the college offers graduate degrees in medicine and law elsewhere, the Carroll campus would have only undergraduate studies with a heavy emphasis on health care and computer technology, Finder said. He expects the campus to open with about 300 students by September 2000.

Carroll Community College is interested in leasing space for a technological center with computer links to its Westminster campus. The two colleges have met and are planning complementary courses.

The town also has a commitment from a Finksburg developer interested in office space. Officials expect interest to grow for those spots, often called incubators for small businesses. Sykesville has retained Ryan & Associates, a commercial broker, to help market Warfield.

"Below-market rentals will give small businesses an opportunity to come out of homes and garages," said Glassberg, who was hired by the town. "There were 4,000 jobs here once. Let's be the new job creator."

The state approved the town's annexation proposal for the property nearly a year ago. Planning sessions with business and community leaders helped officials chart Warfield's future. Sykesville residents will vote on the annexation at a referendum tentatively set for Feb. 17.

The town has asked for state assistance in planning and eliminating hazardous conditions, primarily asbestos and lead paint.

"This is a fairly common request from new industry," said Glassberg. "The state spends about $600,000 in maintenance annually. Its contribution to the project is less than the savings."

Warfield's status as a historic district -- the complex dates from 1903 -- will allow for federal and state tax credits on renovations.

The annexation has one last hurdle. Opponents in the town organized a petition drive and collected about 500 signatures forcing the issue to referendum.

Herman said he looks forward to making the property a vital part of the community and plans a campaign to inform voters.

"We are sending out additional information with our current newsletter," said Herman. "We want to allay fears and eliminate misinformation that this will cost taxpayers."

The town will hold a public forum Jan. 25, possibly at the complex.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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