The state Board of Public Works has declared the Rosewood Center in northwestern Baltimore County surplus and made the 178-acre property available to prospective buyers.
Stevenson University, whose Owings Mills campus adjoins Rosewood, has expressed interest in the former state hospital property, which offers vast green space ideally suited for the college's growing athletic programs and a few newer buildings that could be used for its school of education.
"Making the property surplus is a great first step for us and allows us to begin negotiations with the state," said Tim Campbell, Stevenson's chief financial officer. "We know most of the work is ahead of us as we try to come up with appropriate uses for the land."
Stevenson, the third-largest independent and coeducational university in the state, expects to put together a team to assess the property, which is filled with many dilapidated, asbestos-laden buildings that will have to be razed. Rosewood, which dates to 1888, presents significant environmental hurdles for future users.
"We know there are numerous challenges and a lot of remediation to consider before we make our ultimate decision," Campbell said. "But Rosewood would be a great location for us. Its proximity makes sense, and we have a great deal of community support behind us."
The state, acting on an order from Gov. Martin O'Malley, closed Rosewood Center on June 30. Founded as an asylum for the developmentally disabled, it once housed as many as 3,000 patients, many of them severely disabled. Those numbers dwindled to 166 residents, who have all been relocated, most of them to group homes. No other state or county agency was interested in reusing the parcel, which is a short distance from the bustling Reisterstown Road corridor.
The Board of Public Works' action, taken Wednesday, paves the way for Stevenson to make an offer on the property, said Michael A. Gaines, assistant secretary in the state's Office of Real Estate in the Department of General Services. While several parties have inquired about the property, Stevenson has presented the most comprehensive proposal, he said.
"The school will have to complete its due diligence, such as title searches and environmental assessments," Gaines said. "This is a mutual process, and we are in conversation with them about what is involved in that process."
The university's acquisition of Rosewood would mesh with Baltimore County's vision for the property. With community input, the county recently completed a master plan for the acreage that recommends institutional and educational uses as well as public open space.
"This acquisition by Stevenson University would help redefine Owings Mills as having a special sense of community and place," the plan says.
At several community meetings, residents expressed their preference for academic uses and their opposition to piecemeal residential and commercial development on the property.
Stevenson would have academic neighbors. The Jemicy School, an independent, college-preparatory school for students ages 6 to 18 with learning disabilities, has plans to expand on a nearby 30-acre parcel. And in November, the Shoshana S. Cardin School, a Jewish high school, announced it would relocate its campus to Rosewood. The school purchased the 8,000-square-foot Kanner building and its surrounding land, and will renovate the site at Rosewood Lane and Garrison Forest Road in time for classes in the fall.
Campbell said the university will pursue its options.
"Given all the facets and challenges, we know that this will be a lengthy process for Stevenson," Campbell said. "But ultimately, it could truly be a win-win for the university, the county and the state."