Bainbridge development deal expires

Cecil County's failure to secure water service could mean 5-year delay

Site of former Navy boot camp

Hotel cut from project on 1,200-acre site

July 03, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A plan by one of the nation's leading real estate development companies to transform the vacant Bainbridge Naval Training Center into a resort, conference center and business park may be delayed by as much as five years.

The $500 million project, the largest in Cecil County, has been delayed by the county's failure to secure a plan to provide water and sewerage to the former Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.

Timothy J. Bell, senior vice president of Lowe Enterprises Community Development Inc., which was to develop the 1,200-acre site, said that as a result of the delay the company's contract with the Bainbridge Development Corp. expired Sunday.

The Bainbridge Development Corp. is a quasi-public development agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee the development of the Bainbridge site.

Lowe Enterprises Community Development is the Owings Mills-based subsidiary of Lowe Enterprises, which has been involved in major projects around the world, including the famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and the Cliveden hotel in London.

Both the developer and the BDC expressed confidence that the project will get on track but said that may be three to five years away. It will also be slightly different from what was initially proposed two years ago.

The original plan called for Lowe to convert the former Tome School, which housed 13 grades, into a 150- to 200-room hotel and conference center. That part of the project has been dropped.

Bell said that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it has become more difficult to obtain financing for such projects.

Lowe is negotiating with another company -- Paul Risk & Associates, which is based in Quarryville, Pa. -- to convert the school into a continuous-care retirement community for seniors.

Cecil County officials say a hotel could be added.

Paul Risk & Associates was the developer of the Willow Valley community's retirement center near Lancaster, Pa.

"All parties want to see this thing happen," said Bell, "but our proposal is not capable of moving forward at this time."

He said the company is waiting for the county to come up with a plan to provide water and sewers to the Bainbridge property, which is situated on a hill overlooking the town of Port Deposit and the Susquehanna River.

Phyllis Kilby, a Cecil County commissioner, said the county is considering a plan that would upgrade Perryville's water and sewerage while providing water and sewers to Port Deposit and Bainbridge. "That plan is not moving as fast as everyone had hoped," she said.

She did not say when the infrastructure plan would be completed. The Bainbridge project has been delayed twice as the developer waited for a water and sewerage plan.

Asked if the project is going to happen, Harland Graef, chairman of the Bainbridge Development Corp., responded: "We hope so. We think so. We are trying hard to make it happen."

He said it would not make sense for Lowe to invest more money in the project until an infrastructure plan is worked out. Bell said the developer has invested about $500,000 for engineering and marketing studies and related work at Bainbridge.

Graef said that Lowe has asked the development corporation for a right of first refusal on any development plan for Bainbridge. Under such an arrangement, he said, Lowe would have the right to say "yes or no before we would contract with any other developer. I told them that sounds reasonable, but it will be up to the board" of directors of BDC.

Bell said the Bainbridge plan still includes a 350-acre business park and a residential community.

He said the plan calls for having Port Deposit serve as a town center with San Francisco-style cable cars, or another form of trolley system, to link the new development with the waterfront town.

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