One of the nation's leading real estate development companies is proposing to turn the vacant Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Port Deposit into a $500 million resort, conference center and business park that may employ as many as 2,400.
Details of the proposal by Lowe Enterprises Community Development Inc. are to be announced at a news conference today.
The Los Angeles developer was granted exclusive rights yesterday to negotiate with the Bainbridge Development Corp. (BDC) to develop the 1,200 acres on a hillside overlooking Port Deposit.
BDC is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly last year to develop the former Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.
Sources said the proposal includes a 350-acre business park designed for corporate offices, light manufacturing, research and development, and distribution facilities.
The 3 million-square-foot business center would be similar in size to the Riverside Business Park off U.S. 40 in Belcamp in Harford County.
The investment is expected to exceed $100 million, and when construction is completed, the business park would employ about 2,000 people.
Lowe is also proposing to build a 150- to 200-room resort/conference center with at least one 18-hole golf course, as well as swimming and tennis facilities.
The conference center would be located on a 50-acre site and incorporate Tome School, a former private kindergarten to 12th grade school.
The center is expected to cost $50 million and employ up to 400 people.
The development would be implemented over 10 to 15 years.
The project could ultimately cost as much as $500 million.
No construction is expected to begin until at least next year.
Hans Mayer, executive director of the Maryland Economic Development Corp., said the Lowe project "could be a huge deal" for Cecil County and northeastern Maryland, but warned that it is not a "done deal" at this time.
Lowe must still reach a final agreement with BDC on the development of the property. BDC is in the process of acquiring the land from the Navy for $500,000.
Phyllis Kilby, a Cecil County commissioner, said she was not familiar with the details of the Lowe proposal, but said the project would be a boon to the county and the surrounding region.
7-to-0 vote in favor
Directors of the BDC voted 7 to 0 yesterday in favor of Lowe's proposal over those presented by three other developers.
Lowe's plan will seek to connect the Bainbridge property with the town of Port Deposit on the shores of the Susquehanna River.
Built in 1942, Bainbridge was used as a naval training center until 1976, when it became a Job Corps center.
Vacant 10 years
The property has been vacant since 1990.
Over the years, a number of proposals have been made for the land, including an auto racetrack that was to have generated $146 million annually and created more than 3,000 jobs.
Developed Eden Roc
Other Lowe projects include the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach; Hotel del Coronado, in San Diego; and Wild Dunes Resort near Charleston, S.C.
The company has developed more than 1.5 million square feet of commercial space in the Washington area, including the Chevy Chase Pavilion, a hotel, office and retail complex.