Warfield site set to receive funding boost

Commissioners to vote on $700,000 allocation

Raises contribution to $1 million

Business campus expects $4 million in state funds


April 27, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Warfield Complex in Sykesville, a proposed business campus that could bring 1,000 jobs to Carroll County, is slated for $700,000 in county money to help jump-start the project.

The money brings to $1 million the county's contribution to the town's plan to convert the dozen century-old former state hospital buildings into a business and academic center. It also is expected to spur a multimillion-dollar state contribution, said Steven Powell, the Carroll commissioners' chief of staff.

"This money will get this project off and running," said Powell, who added that the board would vote on the allocation next week. "As long as we kick in this $1 million, the state is expected to make $4 million available for Warfield."

State officials said Friday that they are in discussion with the county and town.

"We are very excited about this project, but at this point, we have not made any firm commitment in terms of a dollar figure," said Karen Glenn, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Located on Route 32 about six miles north of Interstate 70, the 96-acre Warfield property "is one of the best prospects in the county for industrial development," John T. "Jack" Lyburn, Carroll's economic development director, said Friday.

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said the money would pay for the complete renovation of one building, nearly 12,000 square feet in size, that will serve as a model for what the campus might look like.

"This is definitely the spark that starts the fire," said Herman. "We have a whole litany of items for this money, but primarily it will create a spec building to attract tenants."

The state Department of Business and Economic Development is expected to lend $4 million to Carroll's Industrial Development Authority, a private group that conducts real estate transactions for the county, Lyburn said. The money should be available July 1, he said. The IDA will repay the loan as Warfield's buildings are leased.

Lyburn said his office has prospects interested in the property.

"This is a solid growth area where the state will get a good return on its investment in a short period of time," Lyburn said.

The commissioners have made Warfield an economic development priority, said Powell. It holds the promise of high-paying jobs and viable industry, officials said.

"The commissioners are firmly committed to Warfield and the possibilities that exist down there," Powell said. "This is certainly one of our more developable sites."

Nearly 60 percent of Carroll's work force commutes to jobs outside the county. Carroll's industrial tax base is at 12 percent, the lowest in the metropolitan area.

"We want to help with the Warfield Complex," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "We have an excellent and diverse work force in Carroll County and traveling through Carroll County. We want diversified industry here."

In addition to the model building, the state and county money is to pay for infrastructure improvements, including utilities, lighting, sidewalks and parking. The town also plans restoration work to the exterior of several other buildings in the complex.

Much of the effort will focus on the four connected brick buildings that face the state's new Police Training Center, a $40 million complex of classrooms and dormitories expected to open this fall on land adjoining the Warfield property.

"We will have 12,000 square feet ready to go and it will show people how beautiful this campus can be," said Jay T. French, a development consultant working with the town. "There is a good chance it will be rented before it is done."

In addition to the possibility of $4.7 million, the State Highway Administration has allocated $2.7 million for a new intersection at Route 32 and the entrance to Warfield.

"Our game plan has always been to get the intersection and several buildings renovated," said Michael H. Burgoyne, former Town Council president and now chairman of the Warfield Development Corp. "Then, we knew, we could generate interest in this project. People will see that it is going to go."

When complete, the Warfield Complex is to include biotech businesses, satellite college campuses and communications companies. The campus is to also include several new office buildings, a hotel and conference center, a park and walking trails.

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