Town, Carroll County seek to buy land from state

Partners want 55 acres at Springfield hospital

December 07, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A newly formed partnership between Carroll County and the town of Sykesville hopes to acquire a 55-acre parcel at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville and plot its future.

The state expects to make the Martin Gross Complex available for redevelopment within a year and has launched a review process that could lead to the sale of the property.

The complex, which includes a dozen century-old, vacant buildings at the state-owned hospital for the mentally ill, is located at the northern end of the 500-acre hospital campus with easy access to Route 32.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has requested a review of the property before declaring it surplus to its needs, a process that involves notifying state agencies, local governments and the General Assembly.

In a letter to the Maryland State Clearinghouse, county and town officials offered to provide "comprehensive master planning" for the site with the goal "to identify and enlist a private developer to implement" their plan.

"Along with the county, we can work out the planning details for the Martin Gross Complex and come up with something that will complement the existing community at the hospital site and work well with the neighborhood," said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "We are not coming into this with a lot of preconceived ideas, but proper planning is the key to development."

The state has recent experience with reusing the hospital's resources. Last week, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. dedicated the $44.2 million academic area of the Maryland Public Safety Education and Training Center, whose core is two former Springfield buildings. At the dedication, Ehrlich said reusing surplus buildings reflects the policy of his administration.

Sykesville also has experience with rehabilitating Springfield's aging buildings.

After the state declared as surplus a dozen former hospital wards, known as the Warfield Complex, eight years ago, the town launched an ambitious plan to renovate the site into a business and technology park.

The town organized a weeklong planning session that drew officials, business leaders, planners and residents. From that session, the town created a working plan for Warfield. In 1999, Sykesville annexed the property and has successfully lobbied the state and county for funding. Town officials said they expect to sign the first lease for a Warfield building early next year.

Warfield, a $20 million project with the potential to bring more than 1,000 white-collar jobs to the county, will benefit from the new infrastructure at the training center and a new intersection that will connect the complex to Route 32.

"We can use the learning curve from Warfield on Martin Gross," Herman said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the county is "very much interested" in the Martin Gross Complex, with its nearly 175,000 square feet of building space and about 600 feet of frontage on Route 32. The site is also less than 10 miles from Interstate 70.

"It is an opportunity to have another area of the hospital for economic development," Gouge said.

Several Martin Gross buildings date to the hospital's founding in 1896, and the state has rated the condition of all of them "poor." The buildings also have asbestos and lead paint issues, but the state considered them ideal for a public safety training center until Gov. Parris N. Glendening scrapped the project, saying it conflicted with his Smart Growth initiative to direct development to existing communities.

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