Spring Grove entrance

The entrance to Spring Grove Hospital Center on Wade Avenue near the 8.8 acres of land declared surplus by the state that Baltimore County is considering purchasing. (File photo / June 18, 2007)

Baltimore County is moving forward with a plan to turn a parcel of land on the Spring Grove Hospital Center campus in Catonsville into a recreation space for residents.

The Baltimore County Council will vote on May 22 to approve a transfer agreement to acquire 8.8 acres on the campus.

The property has been declared state surplus land and will be purchased by the county for $1,320,000, according to a Baltimore County interoffice memorandum issued May 13.

The state recommended a market value of the property of $2.51 million and after an adjustment of demolition costs of $1.19 million, the state agreed to sell the property for $1.32 million, the memorandum said.

If the measure is approved, the contract will go before the state Board of Public Works at its May 28 meeting.

The land is on the east side of Maple Drive on the campus. It is part of a 196.1-acre parcel with a 73,000 square foot single-story hospital building called the Hamilton Building, that is no longer being used by the state, according to the county interoffice memo.

The Westside Men's Shelter is currently on the site and it will be moved to an adjacent site when park development is underway, according to 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk.

Quirk said acquiring the land has been difficult because it is state owned.

"It's really a complicated process, because you have the state and the county involved," Quirk said.

"There definitely has been a lack of open space in the Catonsville and Arbutus area. We have crowded fields and a lack of recreation space," Quirk said. "This is definitely a step in the right direction and I hope we can find more land for additional fields."

The Spring Grove Hospital Center campus, which houses a 425-bed complex, has entrances at Bloomsbury Avenue, Frederick Road and Wilkens Avenue. All three entrances lead to the parcel being purchased,

The 200-acre campus is the site of the second oldest continuously operated psychiatric hospital in the U.S. and was established in 1797, according to its website.

Development on the site has been considered by others, including University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who would like to expand their research facilities on the site.

"We hope in the future there will be discussions that will give UMBC the opportunity to use land at the site for research," said Lisa Akchin, a spokeswoman for UMBC. "We've always been in concert with the community's needs for recreation space and economic development expansion."

Catonsville developer Steve Whalen wanted to see part of the property become a million-square foot complex of shops, restaurants, hotels and public recreation area called the "Promenade".

As part of the transfer agreement, the county will be required to demolish the building on the site, use the property for recreation fields and ensure adequate parking for the site, the memorandum said.

Bryan Sheppard, who represents County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in southwest Baltimore County, said he has created a work group with the Catonsville Parks and Recreation Council under Kamenetz's direction to assess recreation needs of the area.

"[Kamenetz] thought it would be a good idea to find out what the community needs are in the area," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said the group met in March for an introductory meeting and will meet again in late spring or early summer.

It's premature to say what the park will look like or determine a timetable for the project, Sheppard said.

"We haven't done much in terms of engineering or design on this project yet," Sheppard said.

"[Kamenetz] set aside funds for at least one turf field, that is expected to be added to the site, but it's too early to say how many fields will fit," he said, noting that space will be tight for turf fields if baseball diamonds are added.

Mike Milani, a member of the Catonsville Parks and Recreation Council, said, "Any increase of recreational property is welcomed."

Milani, who has been part of the work group, said they're currently trying to "figure out ways to maximize the use of the land."