Ex-employees want admiral to get his due

Research center name should honor Melville, not Taylor, they say

September 09, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | By Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

When they gather, the old men don't waste time with formalities.

They get over to the bar, get their drinks and get to gabbing.

One of the things they talk about - besides their health, politics and travel - is the peculiar array of names for the place where they all used to work.

"The place had three different names when I was there," said James F. Blose, 91, a research mechanical engineer who spent 30 years at David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis.

During its 96-year history, the center had many names - so many that employees used to joke about it, said Blose and other members of North Severn Alumni Club, a group of former employees who meet for lunch the third Thursday of every month at Annapolis Elks Lodge.

The men chuckle as they recall a former colleague who used to answer his telephone with a song that spoofed the many abbreviations employees used to refer to the place on the Severn River where they worked, including EES, MEL and NSRDC.

They point out that the man whose name has been attached to the center in recent years, Rear Adm. David W. Taylor, had nothing to do with the 46-acre center, which is to become a high-tech business park. It was named after him anyway some years back.

"It's a shame they ever attached [Taylor's] name to it," said Alfred A. Wolf, 76, who was associate technical director.

Yet another name could be in the works as Navy and Anne Arundel County officials work with a private developer to renovate the former research laboratory. Once it is completed in 2011, the complex will have 1,960 employees and include 711,000 square feet of office space. The developers have not said what the new business center might be called.

After months of delay and haggling with the county and neighbors over the project, the Navy's handoff of the property to developers could be complete by next month.

"We're anxious to resolve a few remaining issues and get the county under way with its plans for redevelopment and job generation," said Howard Kelsey, director of real estate for Naval Facilities and Engineering Command.

Once the Navy relinquishes control, naming rights will go to the developer, Annapolis Partners LLC, a joint venture that includes Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago and Maurice B. Tose, chairman and chief executive officer of TeleCommunication Systems Inc. One name that has been mentioned is Annapolis Technology Park.

A better idea, some members of the North Severn Alumni Club say, would be to name it after Rear Adm. George W. Melville, who was an Arctic explorer, author and naval engineer, and helped establish the research center at its site across the Severn River from the Naval Academy almost a century ago.

Some of his descendants, including a great-granddaughter, live in Annapolis.

One relative, Julia Ford, 85, a former public affairs officer at the naval research center whose first husband was Melville's grandson, said the admiral didn't seek the spotlight. "He specifically requested that it not be named after him," she said. "He just didn't want it that way."

Alumni club members dropped a Melville petition effort three years ago for fear it might interfere with transition talks, said Thomas Mansfield, 73, a former supervisory general engineer at the center.

Mansfield, who supports renaming the center for Melville, said that he doubts whether enough people would back the name change and that no one in his group has the energy needed to educate the public about Melville.

"It's probably best to let that one go," Mansfield said.

"It's much too late to have any effect now," Blose said.

There might be time, though.

County officials, who have been meeting with Navy representatives for months to work out the details of the transfer, which includes more than 60 legal documents, said they have no knowledge of a decision on a name.

"I hadn't even thought to ask what [Annapolis Partners] would name it," said Jerome W. Klasmeier, the county's chief administrative officer, who represents County Executive Janet S. Owens at closed meetings with the Navy. "It's a legitimate question."

Ronald K. McDonald, project executive for Annapolis Partners and senior vice president of Mesirow Stein, declined to comment on possible names but said that he and his colleagues have been pleased with recent negotiations. He did not elaborate.

According to Klasmeier and Kelsey, the county and the Navy have settled on many points, including a lease agreement that would allow a tenant that works with the Department of Defense to stay on site rent-free for 25 years or longer. The Navy also has agreed to allow the business park use of a nearby sewage treatment plant.

County officials agreed recently to allow the Navy to forgo subdivision of the property with the understanding that they will receive deeds for the land that will include building footprints and tenant leases. Otherwise, it would be difficult to redevelop the site, said James J. Cannelli, assistant director of planning and zoning.

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