New plans to develop Bainbridge Navy center

Group envisions hotels, offices, retirement home

January 10, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

A group of politically connected developers that includes Baltimore's John Paterakis wants to build a retirement community, hotels, offices and other businesses at the site of a closed naval training center in Cecil County, officials confirmed yesterday.

Paterakis has been a proponent of allowing casino gambling in Maryland, but the group's lead partner says casinos aren't part of the plan for the proposed $500 million-plus project.

"There's no thought of that at all - zero," said Richard M. Alter, president of Columbia-based Manekin LLC.

However, Alter said the group would be interested if Maryland officials ever open the door to casinos at selected sites and decide that the 1,200-acre former training center in Bainbridge would be a good location.

"I'm not in the habit of turning down free lunches," Alter said.

Paterakis, a multimillionaire bakery and hotel owner, did not return telephone calls about his interest in the project.

Representatives of Paterakis, Manekin and three other companies signed an agreement last month giving them exclusive rights to negotiate a deal with the Bainbridge Development Corp., a quasi-public agency that the General Assembly created in 1999 to oversee development of the site. The 120-day agreement expires in mid-March.

"It's a terrific piece of property," said Howard J. Neff, a member of the agency's board of directors. "A large segment is a granite bluff that overlooks the Susquehanna River."

Convenient location

He noted that the site, just off Interstate 95, is convenient to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Neff said that the developers have not detailed their plans, but that he has heard no talk about the potential for casino gambling. Added Wayne Lee Tome, mayor of nearby Port Deposit: "Nothing has been discussed with us as far as that."

The developers are to formally present their plans for the property to the agency's board Jan. 20.

Besides Paterakis and Manekin, the partners in the proposed project include Prince George's developer Kenneth H. Michael, Clark Turner Cos. of Harford County and Paul Risk Associates Construction Services of Port Deposit.

"This is a very large project and we wanted to put a very strong but very local team together," said Alter.

Michael was a classmate of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller at the University of Maryland in the 1960s and is a longtime friend of Miller.

Michael also has longstanding ties to former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry. Michael helped pay Curry's way through law school and gave him a job when he graduated.

Alter said developing in Cecil County is a natural extension of the growth that is taking place in adjacent Harford County.

"When you see what's happening along the I-95 corridor, the spectacular view, it offers a heck of an opportunity for high-quality residential and commercial development," he said.

No large hotels

While plans call for building hotels at the Bainbridge site - in addition to a retirement community, other housing and offices - they won't be large, convention-type hotels, Alter said.

"We're not going to have the kind of hotel that we think would lend itself to casino gambling, and it has not been on our radar screen," he said.

There are no proposals before the Maryland General Assembly to open the state to full-scale casinos, although measures have been introduced in the past.

Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wants to allow slot machine gambling, but says he would restrict it to four horse track sites.

The Bainbridge property has long been regarded as a prime piece of real estate. But development has been hampered because of problems bringing water and sewerage to the former Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.

A plan by one of the nation's leading real estate developers, Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises, collapsed last summer because of those problems.

The company had proposed developing the site into a resort, conference center and business park.

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