Sykesville is expected to adopt soon architectural guidelines for renovating the 13 century-old buildings known as the Warfield Complex into a business and academic center.
The guidelines, based on federal standards for preserving historic buildings, are a vital initial step in the project, which is expected to take several years and cost about $20 million. Warfield could create hundreds of professional jobs and be an economic development boon to Carroll County.
Prepared by David H. Gleason Associates Inc., Baltimore-based architects, the design concepts would help preserve the historic character of the buildings while directing development, including a hotel and a "passive" park on the 96-acre campus along Route 32.
"We need covenants and guidelines, not to scare off developers but to make the project reasonable," Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said. "We are trying to find a balance that is not so arduous that it will burden developers.
"We want developers to have a good idea what the town is looking for [before] spending money," Herman said. "We are trying to make leases attractive."
The Town Council had its first look at the proposals Monday and will not act until it has reviewed them. Sykesville's planning and historic district commissions have approved the guidelines and recommended their adoption.
The document goes into copious detail on Warfield's history, the features of its stately brick buildings, which are often compared to those of a college campus, and standards required for any restoration work.
"We went through building by building, pointing out what is important to keep and what could be changed," said architect Richard Wagner, who worked on the design.
The state deeded Warfield, once part of Springfield Hospital Center, to the town last year. Sykesville, Carroll County and the state have entered into a partnership to develop the complex and share in profits from leasing the buildings.
For developers, architects and contractors interested in rehabilitating the aging buildings, the guidelines should become invaluable tools and help make them eligible for federal and state tax credits that make historic renovations feasible, officials said.
"This is the real nuts and bolts of what is recommended," said Michael H. Burgoyne, president of the Town Council.