Army, developer sign APG lease

Laboratory, office space planned for facility

December 10, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The Army and a Minnesota-based developer have signed a 50-year lease for about 400 acres at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a project that will bring office space for up to 10,000 civilian defense contractor workers at the expanding base.

Opus East LLC, the Rockville subsidiary of the company, plans to break ground at the end of the month on the first building in a business and technology park that will be located inside the 73,000-acre base in Harford County, Army officials said.

"This is a good thing for various reasons," said George Mercer, an APG spokesman. "It brings in uses that are compatible with Army operations and brings activities and businesses closer to where the Army works. Part of the selling point for the developer is the extra security provided and the proximity."

The project is part of a nationwide push by the Department of Defense to find new ways of financing upkeep and upgrades on military installations when the defense budget is being stretched to support combat operations overseas. Begun years before the Pentagon announced its sweeping plan for base realignment and closures, known as BRAC, it has since been seized upon as a way to help provide the facilities and services needed at installations slated to expand, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade.

But the Army's push to develop its land in Maryland is generating static among some local and state officials, who contend that the federal government should help pay for the costs of road and highway improvements and other public services needed to accommodate the growth occurring on and around military bases.

The administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley is considering seeking legislation providing for private developments on military land to make payments in lieu of taxes to state and local governments.

Opus still is negotiating with the state on the issue of property tax, Mercer said. But the developer has worked out other issues such as water and sewer, which the city of Aberdeen provides to the base.

"They have gone ahead with a lease that is 50 years in longevity," said David Ruderman, spokesman for the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "That means they have worked out the issues."

Army and Opus officials said they plan to release today more details of the lease, which was signed Nov. 28.

The initial plan calls for construction of one laboratory building in the complex that will eventually include 1 million square feet of office space, nearly that amount in structures designed for research and development work, and a total of 800,000 square feet of laboratory space that will spread across a campus-like setting.

The project, to be called Government and Technology Enterprise, or GATE, will house federal agencies, government contractors and private companies wanting the security of being located on a military base, behind a fence and guarded gate. It could bring an additional 10,000 jobs to APG.

GATE likely will draw defense contractors already serving APG's work force or the added staff expected in the next several years as base realignment brings about 5,000 high-tech jobs from Fort Monmouth, N.J. Army officials expect the project to generate at least $500 million in revenues over the life of the agreement.

Opus will build on about half of the parcel it is leasing. Much of the remaining area is wetlands or unbuildable, officials said. As part of the agreement, the developer will provide "in-kind" services, mostly construction-related, and will rebuild a picnic area on the present site in another location, Mercer said.

"This is a way to literally enhance the use of land and turn it into something productive for the Army," he said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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