More than six months after taking ownership of the former David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis, developers charged with revitalizing the property have yet to submit a sketch plan, the first step in turning what was once a Navy weapons lab into an office park.
"We have heard nothing from Annapolis Partners to date with respect to pending plans, site development plans or concept plans," said Robert L. Walker, Anne Arundel County land use officer.
Last October, county officials celebrated with sheet cake and punch when after two years of negotiations the 46-acre research center was transferred in October to Annapolis Partners, a team that includes Annapolis entrepreneur Maurice B. Tose.
Today, some of those same officials admit that they had hoped for a faster start-up.
They blame a lackluster economy and a high vacancy rate in regional office space for the delay.
"We anticipated a quicker look at the concept plan," said William A. Badger, executive director of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, an arm of local government that helped broker the redevelopment deal.
"But all of this is contingent on market conditions. Those of us with a concept of redevelopment in this area had to assume it was going to be difficult," Badger said.
Annapolis Partners plans to build three office campuses and an inn at the former military site.
The project, which is to be completed in stages, could take a decade or more to complete. Once finished, it is anticipated that the offices could house 1,800 employees and generate an annual $3 million in tax revenue.
Members of the development team - including Tose - declined to be interviewed for this story. Instead, they released two written statements. The first said that the group was putting together a sketch plan for submittal to the county.
"Annapolis Partners hopes to approach the Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning as early as this fall to begin a formal site plan approval process," said spokesman Ronald K. McDonald, a former senior vice president with Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago. Mesirow Stein is a key member of Annapolis Partners.
In a second statement, McDonald announced that he now works for Gary S. Murray Sr., a Prince George's County businessman and advisor to former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.
Murray, a former high-tech entrepreneur who is now focused on real estate development, was recently tapped by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich to be chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Commission. McDonald said that Murray is not part of the Annapolis Partners team.
However, Murray, who owns Human Vision LLC of Lanham, has worked with Mesirow Stein before. Recently, Murray's company teamed-up with Mesirow Stein to pitch a proposal to turn a section of Philadelphia on the Delaware River into a waterfront tourist area similar to Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Anne Arundel County officials, who have had spotty communications with Annapolis Partners in recent months, were unaware or only vaguely aware of McDonald's job change or his new connection to Murray.
"I have had no contact with anyone from Annapolis Partners in two or three months," said Walker.
The development plans are a concern to many.
"I'd like to know what their timetable is," said Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Republican whose district includes the former Navy base, referring to plans for demolition, environmental cleanup and construction. "I think the citizens would like to know as well."