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Stevenson University buys Shire drug plant in Owings Mills

Stevenson University has bought the Shire Pharmaceuticals plant next door to its Owings Mills campus, a $10.5 million deal that a school official said will expand the grounds by a third and help meet the goal of increasing full-time student enrollment to 4,000 in the next two years.

"It was just a great opportunity we couldn't pass up," Tim Campbell, Stevenson's executive vice president for financial affairs and chief financial officer, said of the sale that closed Tuesday, expanding the campus in northwestern Baltimore County from 74 to 102 acres. The school, with 3,214 full-time and about 1,000 part-time students, also has a 60-acre campus in Greenspring, about six miles southeast of the Owings Mills site.

Campbell said Stevenson has been working on the sale for about a year, and plans to use the 28 acres with two buildings and a 400-space parking lot to accommodate the School of the Sciences and School of Design, now located on the Greenspring campus. He said the school will probably spend about $3 million to renovate the two one-story buildings and expects to move in by August 2013.

Buying the Shire plant means the school will continue using the gym at the Greenspring campus. Stevenson had planned to use a $3 million state grant to turn the gym into a new School of Design, but that money will now be applied to the Shire purchase and the Greenspring gym will remain.

Shire Pharmaceuticals — a company based in Ireland that once employed about 260 people in Owings Mills — announced in the spring of 2009 a three-year plan to shift all in-house manufacturing to outside contractors. Work done at the Owings Mills plant, which produced medications for hyperactivity disorders and gastrointenstinal diseases, has been moved in phases to a company in North Carolina.

Campbell said Shire is now leasing back portions of the plant where work is still going on, and the company expects to vacate the complex by the end of this year.

Stevenson — a liberal arts and professional school that was known as Villa Julie College until 2008 — has seen its full-time student enrollment double in the past 10 years, and hopes to reach 4,000 in the next two years, Campbell said. He said the school is still talking with the state Department of General Services about buying land at the former Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.

The former state institution for developmentally disabled people includes 178 acres next to Stevenson that last year was declared as surplus by the Board of Public Works. The Baltimore County Planning Board has endorsed Stevenson as the preferred developer for the site.

The prospect of the school buying the Rosewood land has been complicated by an array of hazardous materials left behind since the 19th century in buildings, tunnels and underground fuel tanks. A preliminary study to find and name the toxic materials was done for the state, and Stevenson then conducted a second study, but never released the results and has not said if there is an estimate for a clean-up cost.

Campbell on Tuesday said "we're still working through those issues, working with the state" but declined to elaborate. The state has declined in the past to discuss the second hazardous materials report, as it was commissioned and paid for by Stevenson University.


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