Developing Warfield becomes a priority

Town to work with county, state on former hospital

January 06, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville is designing a new intersection at Route 32 to improve access to the Warfield Complex, a former hospital site that the town expects to redevelop as a multimillion-dollar business and academic center.

The town also is funding a feasibility study with a state university and focusing its attention on the Lane Building, considered the most marketable of the 14 Warfield buildings.

The two projects will be conducted while the state completes roads, a power station and water and sewer lines for its new police training center, which adjoins the Warfield Complex.

Sykesville, Carroll County and the state will be partners in the development of the 96-acre Warfield property, and they will share profits as the buildings are leased. The town annexed the property three years ago and has worked steadily to develop it. The state's choice of two Warfield buildings for the final phase of its training center - a shooting range and driver-training course operate on the campus - is a boon for the town, which will benefit from the improved infrastructure.

The town is sharing the $50,000 cost of the feasibility study with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman expects the effort to attract more prospective tenants.

"UMBC has had much success helping high-tech companies get started, and they are looking at Warfield to branch out," Herman said.

The study, which will take a few months to conduct, will consider the property's suitability for startup technology businesses and as a satellite campus for area colleges.

Lane's proximity to the highway and its public water and sewer lines could make it attractive to developers, officials said. Several prospective tenants, including the U.S. Department of Defense, have shown interest in the one-story brick building, which contains about 45,000 square feet of space and faces the highway.

"Almost everything else we want to do has to wait for the state work to be completed," Herman said. "But we can work on Lane right now. It is right on the highway and has its own infrastructure."

The building needs asbestos-abatement work, estimated at $130,000, before restoration can begin. The town had hoped to cover that expense with a Community Legacy grant from the state, but officials learned last month that the town received $50,000. Although the sum was a setback, the town is pursuing other funding sources, said Herman.

He called Warfield "a large project that is very hungry for money." Renovating the buildings could cost up to $20 million and could take up to 10 years to complete. The town staff has had some success in its quest for grant money.

With $400,000 in state highway money, the town awarded an engineering contract to the Wilson T. Ballard Co. The firm will design a new intersection at Route 32 north of Cooper Drive to link the highway to the Warfield Complex. The contract also includes design work for several internal connector roads.

"State money is tight this year, but we have a good chance of getting the intersection and roads funded, if we have them designed," said Herman.

The town has an additional $100,000 from the state and $300,000 from the county, money that it is using to engineer other roads on the site and to study existing infrastructure throughout the property. The work will make it easier for the town to connect the Warfield buildings to the water, sewer and electric lines the state is installing for its police training center, which is expected to open in July next year.

"The state is putting in a new electric substation that will upgrade power for the entire complex, and we will be able to branch off the new water and sewer lines it is running for its training center buildings," said Herman.

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