Taylor center changes hands

Transfer to investor is first step in development of proposed business park

Anne Arundel

October 30, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

More than two years after being picked to redevelop the shuttered David Taylor Research Center, a team of private businessmen took over the property at a signing-ceremony yesterday in a former submarine workshop at the site.

Although Navy, county and development officials signed legal documents earlier in the day at the Arundel Center in Annapolis, they finalized the deal with handshakes and cake at the former military base, which is slated for a $250 million makeover as a business park.

"Today is really the beginning of the redevelopment of the David Taylor Center," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, who made the transfer of the 46-acre base to private developers a focal point of her four-year term.

Owens, a Democrat from Millersville who is running for re-election against Republican Phillip D. Bissett, has promoted reuse of the site as a way to provide 1,800 jobs for residents and expand the county's commercial tax base.

At build-out, the business complex is expected to bring in about $3 million a year in tax revenue.

It's unclear when demolition and construction could begin at the site across the Severn River from the Naval Academy. The developers, Annapolis Partners LLC, a team that consists of Annapolis entrepreneur Maurice B. Tose and Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago, have not completed a site plan.

"Who knows how long that will take?" said Ronald K. McDonald, a senior vice president with Mesirow Stein. "It certainly won't be an overnight process."

In fact, county officials said yesterday, it may take three months or more before anything happens at the former naval base, which federal officials closed in 1999. Annapolis Partners has yet to receive the necessary demolition, grading and building permits.

"They will take the same process that other developers take when they want to move forward on their project," said county land-use officer Robert L. Walker, who added that officials could approve demolition permits in as few as three weeks after developers complete site plans. Building permits could take three to six months, he said.

Annapolis Partners plans to build three office campuses and an inn at the site, one of the last major tracts available for development along the county's waterfront. The project, which is to be completed in stages, could take a decade or more.

Environmental cleanup at the former base, which will be paid for by the developers, is expected to be a considerable undertaking. Annapolis Partners also has agreed to pay the county to cover part of the cost of executing the land deal, a process that has taken about 7 years. Developers paid $500,000 yesterday and will pay another $1 million when building permits for the third phase of the project are issued, or on April 30, 2011, whichever comes first. The exact amount spent by county officials was unavailable yesterday.

Tose, who attended the ceremony yesterday, said he was "ecstatic" that the land was finally his. A 1978 Naval Academy graduate, Tose said he has long dreamed of owning the site across the river from his alma mater. His business, TeleCommunication Systems Inc., now housed in two offices on West Street, will occupy one of the office campuses.

"Wow! It has been quite a journey," Tose said yesterday.

At times, the project has been mired in controversy. Owens dismissed the former chairman of the David Taylor redevelopment advisory committee, Steve Carr, early last year after he sent e-mails critical of the project to County Council members.

More recently, six members of the advisory committee criticized Owens for not closing legal loopholes in the agreement that could allow for more traffic than agreed upon in the area.

The council voted last month to adopt legislation that cleared the way for the transfer, despite strong objections by council member Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat.

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