Howard sells Gateway school site for $5 million

Clarksville Commons to rise from rubble

May 22, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

After months of negotiations, Howard County has sold the surplus former Gateway school site in Clarksville to a local couple who plan to build a green mixed-use development that could involve Kendall's Hardware next door.

"We've reached another milestone — a business milestone," said George Stone, who with his wife, Holly, hopes to settle the $5 million transaction within months and submit plans to the county for processing.

The sale agreement was signed May 4 and disclosed last week. Settlement would follow a 150-day study period in which the Stones will work through environmental, traffic and other legal and commercial issues and prepare a specific development plan.

Stone and Steve Kendall, who operates his family's hardware business next to the 7.8-acre school site, are discussing a possible collaboration.

"There's something in the works," Kendall said, though there's no specific agreement. He said combining the two properties, which are directly across Route 108 from River Hill Village Center, would enable them to do a better project.

County Executive Ken Ulman had announced in January the choice of the Stones' Clarksville Commons proposal from among six finalists who placed bids on the property, which fronts on a busy highway in one of the county's wealthiest areas.

"They put forth a proposal unlike any other," Ulman said at the time. The Stones described their concept as "a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable, signature destination for Clarksville and the region" unlike any standard commercial box building.

Mark DeLuca, deputy director of public works for Howard County, said government officials are happy the sales contract has been signed. He said construction is likely in about two years, though Stone said he hopes to start earlier.

"It's still a proposal at this time," DeLuca said, noting that a specific plan must be created and move through the county's development process.

"We're excited about the project," he said. "If they're successful, it really will be a very nice addition to Clarksville and a model to other developers."

The county government had hoped to get about $6 million for the land; it paid $259,000 to have the old building demolished and the money is needed to help pay for renovations to the George Howard office complex in Ellicott City. But the recession limited the price. The county is also trying to sell a surplus 25-acre undeveloped parcel on Rogers Avenue.

"I think the deal is very fair," Stone said, given the state of the commercial economy.

The Stones, who live in Clarksville, envision a mix of commercial offices, stores and perhaps a boutique hotel with public spaces that will draw people in. They have formed Greenstone Ventures LLC. to pursue the Clarksville project.

The Stones own and operate a summer camp in Maine, and Holly Stone is a vice president of Percontee Inc., a Silver Spring building materials and quarry firm owned by her father's family. She is the daughter of the late Homer Gudelsky, a wealthy Washington developer. George Stone was involved in developing Waverly Woods in Ellicott City and has said that former county planning director Joseph Rutter and Jared Spahn, owner of Old Town Construction, would be involved in the Clarksville Commons project.

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