Firm interested in Bainbridge is rated highly

Lowe is said to have clout and money for $500 million project

`Able to get it done'

Development

June 14, 2000|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Lowe Enterprises Community Development Inc. has the experience and financial clout to complete its plan for the redevelopment of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center property in Port Deposit, a national consultant said yesterday.

"From my experience of working with them, I would say they are not like the New York-based people who talk big but don't get the job done," said Sean Hennessey, director of hospitality and leisure consulting for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Hennessey was commenting on Lowe's plan to build a $500 million conference/resort center, business park and residential community on 1,200 acres on a hill overlooking the Susquehanna River.

"They are very determined, focused and serious investors," Hennessey said. "When they approach a project they are able to get it done."

Hennessey is based in New York, but he lived in the Cockeysville area in the early 1980s and is vaguely familiar with the Port Deposit region. It would "take extremely strong financial backing" for any company to complete a project of the magnitude proposed by Lowe, he said.

"They have that strong financial backing," he said.

Hennessey said Lowe is involved with some "some pretty spectacular projects" around the world, including the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and the Cliveden, an expensive hotel in London that attracts CEOs and celebrities.

Lowe's Cecil County project is expected to bring new life to a town that is trying to recapture its once prosperous past.

The proposal envisions a resort/conference center with 150 to 200 rooms, plus at least one 18-hole golf course and swimming and tennis facilities.

Another 350 acres will be turned into a high-end business park to accommodate corporate offices, light manufacturing, research and development activities and distribution uses.

Another part of the closed base will feature upscale housing and vacation homes, perhaps as many as 1,200 units.

The project calls for a San Francisco-type cable car system to link the new development with Port Deposit, which was established in the early 1700s.

"The plan is to make Port Deposit the town center for the Bainbridge development," said Timothy J. Bell, a Lowe senior vice president.

Town and county officials hope the Bainbridge project will return Port Deposit to its glory days of the Civil War era, when it was a bustling center of commerce and social activity.

At that time, it was "Maryland's sixth-largest town with three hotels, six active churches, 18 very active taverns and the only bank between Philadelphia and Baltimore," said Erika Quisenberry, curator of Port Deposit's Pawpaw Museum.

W. Paul Gilbert, director of the Cecil County office of economic development, said Port Deposit should benefit from the influx of money coming into the area.

The project should stimulate new businesses, such as restaurants, antique shops, perhaps a marina, a grocery store, a gas station or two, a barber shop and maybe a dry cleaners, he said.

During the Korean War, 55,000 Navy personnel and civilian workers were based at Bainbridge. Today, only about 800 people live in town, many of them in clapboard houses in need of paint.

"Who knows," said Quisenberry, "with all this development, we could actually get our first traffic light."

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