Tech firm to add to skyline

Windermere Group to commission 3 towers near U.S. 50 and I-97

1st expected to be finished in '06

Company says expansion could create 2000 jobs

March 07, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Visitors to Annapolis don't see a lot as they approach the city via U.S. 50, but a homegrown technology company plans to change that by building a $47 million, 11-story glass tower that would peer down from the highest hillside in the area.

The Windermere Group, which works with private clients such as Motorola and government departments such as the National Security Agency, announced Friday that it will commission a trio of towers on its 37-acre campus overlooking the juncture of U.S. 50 and Interstate 97, just west of Annapolis.

The first and tallest is expected to be completed in 2006, said Robert G. Pozgar, president of Windermere. Two eight-story companions are expected to follow in 2008 and 2011. The cost of the project could approach $150 million.

Company and Anne Arundel officials praised the project as an architectural and economic development landmark for the county.

"The county is transforming before our very eyes," said County Executive Janet S. Owens at the announcement ceremony. "We're providing the highest level of defense and research to the nation."

Pozgar estimated that the three buildings, designed to house his growing company and other tenants, would create 2,000 jobs.

The proposed headquarters building, which would sit on the northwest side of U.S. 50, was the star of Friday's show.

Dominated by sharply cut slabs of silver reflective glass, the building would look different from anything in the Annapolis area.

"It's pure, almost as if a tectonic plate shift brought it right out of the ground," said architect Joe Boggs, whose Annapolis firm is designing the complex.

Boggs said the reflective glass would create "a play on light from every angle."

Views from the top floor would run past the Bay Bridge to the east and to Baltimore to the north, he said. More importantly, Boggs and county leaders said, drivers will see the building as they approach Annapolis.

"There's not a lot to look at now, but we're going to change that," Boggs said.

Owens said that people driving to Ocean City "cannot miss this building."

Pozgar said the company has no concrete plans to make the top of the building open to the public but said the perch might occasionally be rented out for social or business gatherings.

Windermere owns the site and will not need zoning changes or infrastructure improvements to build the complex. The project will include an underground garage and will incorporate trees on the hillside into a courtyard, Boggs said.

The Cafritz Co. of Washington is the leading contender to develop the project, Pozgar said.

Windermere was founded in the late 1990s by longtime NSA official Raymond T. Tate, who at 79 still serves as chief executive.

The company's work includes producing custom software and radio systems, and maintaining and upgrading digital networks for government agencies.

Pozgar said Windermere will generate more than $60 million in revenue this year and employs about 400 people, with more than 100 job openings.

County leaders played up the company's work on national security technology.

"Our defense and intelligence cluster now rivals any in the country," said Bill Badger, president and chief executive of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

Owens joked, "Our greatest economic development boon has involved companies that don't want to talk about what they do."

But Pozgar said agencies focusing on national security are a small part of Windermere's client base. He said, "This is a coming out for us."

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