Southern station up for sale

The county is hoping to cash in by auctioning off a 6,000-square-foot house, complete with bathrooms, carpeting and holding cells

April 14, 2006|By ANNIE LINSKEY | ANNIE LINSKEY,SUN REPORTER

A spacious Cape Cod house on Solomons Island Road - with 6,000 square feet of space - is on the auction block.

The place has high ceilings, loads of bathrooms and is situated on a busy Edgewater artery. The World War II-era building sits on more than an acre and was last occupied by Anne Arundel County police officers.

The former Southern District maintains many of its former charms: lockers, a white board for shift assignments, bulletproof glass and at least five jail cells.

Prospective buyers inspected the brick-front building from top to bottom at an open house this week, and a public auction of the property will be held Tuesday, marking the first time the county will try to sell a property in this fashion.

County officials anticipate garnering more than $1 million for the police building that served South County for 40 years. The police moved into a new 15,000-square-foot building - also in Edgewater - in December 2003.

Summing up the county's motivation to auction off the closed police station, County Executive Janet S. Owens said: "I wanted to make sure that the county was able to receive as much money as possible for the property, [that] it would be publicly available and get it on the tax rolls."

The county owns roughly 1,700 parcels of land. Between two and nine properties are sold each year, said Central Service Officer Fred Schram, who is in charge of the county's real estate. Typically, the county accepts the highest sealed bid for a property.

The former police building sits next to restaurants and businesses on the 2900 block of Solomons Island Road, or Route 2, just blocks from the South River.

"The real estate market around there has been very good; it is very hot still," said Paul Cooper, who, as vice president for Alex Cooper Auctioneers, will run the auction.

A public auction creates the potential for a bidding frenzy, Schram said. "That is what we're hoping for."

The county got two appraisals for the property nine months ago, ranging from $1.2 million to $1.4 million, Schram said. The county will not accept offers under the appraised value, but Owens would not say which value would be the lowest she would take.

The profits from the deal would go directly to the county's general fund, Schram said.

At an open house last week, prospective buyers wandered through the rooms of the former police station.

Jallon Brown, the principal of KIPP Harbor Academy, a charter school in Edgewater, was browsing. "We're looking for a permanent home," she said. It wasn't clear how the carpeted rooms with fake wood paneling would appeal to school children - or their parents.

Brown, though, was visiting the place with an architect to help with the vision. "I think most people would consider knocking this down," said Cathy Cherry, the architect.

Two others wandering around looked dejected. "This would be an ideal building if we could afford it," said Richard W. Walker, a quartermaster for a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. "It could be a community center for veterans."

When the building was zoned for residential use, Walker said he thought his group could afford to buy it. But with the property now zoned for commercial use, he said the veterans won't be able to compete with commercial developers in the auction.

Martin Dennis, a lawyer from Calvert County, had a different concept. "As long as you can go up 60 feet," he said. "Then turn it into an office building."

The building was built in 1945 and eventually evolved into a police station. It was the scene of many unusual tales, including one that's a major blemish on the Police Department's record. Philip A. Montgomery, an electrician's apprentice, died of antifreeze poisoning while he was jailed in one of the cell blocks Dec. 15, 2000.

Police said they thought Montgomery was drunk and locked him in a detention cell to "sober up." He died after six hours.

Officer Charles R. Atwell II was fired a year after the incident for not calling an ambulance for Montgomery. Atwell has maintained he had reason to believe that Montgomery was only drunk, not ill.

O'Brien Atkinson IV, the president of the county police union and an 11-year veteran on the police force, did not have any sentimental attachment to the building: "I worked there my whole career, but I've got nothing cute or charming to say about it."

Atkinson did chuckle when he recalled a young prisoner escaping through a mail slot in a front window.

"I think the station went though a lot of trial and error to get to being a secure facility," Atkinson said.

The old Southern District served as more than just a police headquarters.

At one point, it contained the Edgewater People's Court, said Sgt. Sam Worsham, a 32-year veteran with the county police.

At one time, there was a shooting range in the basement and an underground parking garage on the premises, Worsham said.

"There are a lot of memories there for me," Worsham said. "To be depressed to see it go? No. I kind of thought it would be converted into something for the county."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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