Resort, business park plan delayed

Water, sewerage for Cecil project needs more study

February 23, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A plan to transform the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center into a $500 million resort, conference center, business park and retirement community has been put on hold, at least temporarily, project officials said yesterday.

"We have taken a time-out to allow for more time to come up with a plan for providing water and sewerage" for the Bainbridge project, said W. Paul Gilbert, director of the Cecil County office of economic development.

The county's infrastructure plan is to be completed by April 1. At the same time, the Los Angeles developer, Lowe Enterprises, is to present its master plan for the project.

Both sides expressed confidence yesterday that the project - which would be the county's largest development - will move forward.

"I'm the eternal optimist. I'm sure we will find common ground and move forward," said Harland Graef, chairman of the Bainbridge Development Corp., the quasi-public development agency created in 1999 to develop the former Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.

"I anticipate that by the end of March we will reach an agreement and we will begin to implement our plan," said Timothy J. Bell, senior vice president of Lowe Enterprises Community Development Inc., an Owings Mills subsidiary of Lowe Enterprises.

"The two sides have been hanging together for a year and a half," said Gilbert. "If there was an obvious deal-breaker, I'm sure we would have already found it."

Lowe, one of the nation's leading real estate development companies, announced its plan for Bainbridge in June 2000.

The ambitious proposal for the 1,200 acres overlooking the Susquehanna River would create nearly 3,000 new jobs when completed in 10 to 15 years.

Plans call for a 350-acre business park, designed for corporate offices, light manufacturing, research and development, and distribution facilities. The site also would include a 150- to 200-room resort and conference center, with at least one 18-hole golf course, and a 1,500-unit retirement community. The development is to be linked by a cable car system to nearby Port Deposit.

Graef said the BDC has extended Lowe's option on the property - which had been due to expire Dec. 31 - until April 1. He said the BDC board is expected to approve Lowe's plan and begin negotiations for a long-term development plan.

Bell estimates groundbreaking is three years away, saying it would take that long to obtain permits for water and sewerage and traffic plans for new roads.

Bell said that financing for such projects had become more restrictive since the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, "we view this as only a temporary setback. We don't need to have our financing in place by April 1."

Gilbert said the BDC extended its agreement with Lowe after determining it would make more sense economically for a water and sewerage plan to include Perryville along with Bainbridge and Port Deposit.

He said it would cost an estimated $24 million to provide a water and sewerage system for Bainbridge and Port Deposit and $11 million to upgrade Perryville's system. The BDC is looking at upgrading and expanding Perryville's system to serve all three areas at an estimated cost of about $15 million.

"We know this is the right thing to do," Gilbert said. "We have taken a time-out so we can finalize our investigation of one system that would serve all three communities."

Lowe has been involved in major projects around the world, including the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and the Cliveden, an upscale London hotel.

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