Former Navy facility to become office park

Two academy alumni are to lead effort at site near Annapolis

Construction

May 20, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Two Naval Academy alumni will spearhead the conversion of a storied former naval research station near Annapolis into a privately run high-tech office park that could employ 2,000 people, Anne Arundel County announced yesterday.

Annapolis Partners LLC said it plans to invest $200 million during the next decade, beginning with construction of a new headquarters for Annapolis-based TeleCommunications Systems Inc. on a promontory across the Severn River from the Naval Academy. The company has 320 employees.

If the work goes as planned, the site where Robert Goddard experimented with rocketry will feature more than 700,000 square feet of premium office space, three parking garages and an inn with sweeping views of the city, academy and Chesapeake Bay.

"We are well able to execute the county's vision as well as the Navy's vision," said Maurice B. Tose, a 1978 academy graduate who runs TeleCommunications Systems and makes up half of the new partnership.

Tose's partner in the conversion will be Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago, whose credits include redevelopment of three other former military installations. Its point man on this project will be Ronald K. McDonald, Naval Academy class of 1984.

Key details have not been worked out, such as whether the "master developer" will pay rent for use of the 42 acres. In any event, the partnership - and not the county - will pay for road, sewer and other improvements, said William A. Badger Jr., chief executive officer of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

County Executive Janet S. Owens selected the partnership from four bidders. Her decision echoed the unanimous recommendation of a selection team made up mostly of county and economic development corporation officials.

"No matter what we expected from a conceptual stage, this far surpasses our most wonderful imaginations," said County Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican whose district includes the center.

Owens has long viewed a high-tech facility as an obvious successor to the naval center, where stealth submarine research took place in nondescript World War II-vintage buildings. She said early on that she did not want the buildings converted to residences.

Annapolis Partners shares her outlook. "We are working to create a little Silicon Valley right here on the shores of the Severn River," Tose said.

He predicted that the waterfront setting will lure high-tech firms eager to cater to employees' desire for a laid-back work atmosphere. The new headquarters for his company - which creates software that lets wireless devices communicate with each other and the Internet - will have a deck where programmers seeking inspiration can work among the birds and trees.

Badger said the redevelopment will help fill a critical shortage of premium office space in Annapolis, where the vacancy rate is just 1 percent. "High-tech [companies] like Class A office space or something unique," he said. "Here we have an opportunity to combine both of them."

Some pieces of the old center will remain. Those include the headquarters building constructed in 1903. A lab that simulates deep-ocean conditions also will remain. The Navy ceased operations at the site in December after a four-year downsizing as part of nationwide base closings.

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