Spring Grove Hospital Center property

A shuttered building on the Spring Grove Hospital campus in Catonsville near Interstate 695 is shown. (Staff photo by Lauren Loricchio, Baltimore Sun Media Group / May 20, 2014)

A 21.9-acre parcel of land on the Spring Grove Hospital Center campus in Catonsville may soon be up for sale.

The Maryland Department of Planning has recommended that the land, which is zoned for office technology and lies adjacent to Interstate 695, be used for mixed-use development, according to a letter obtained by The Catonsville Times.

The property recently went through Maryland State Clearinghouse review, which ensures projects are consistent with state and local laws, regulations and guidelines, said Peter Conrad, director of local planning assistance at the Maryland Department of Planning.

A report prepared in 2011 for the Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), analyzed the economics of consolidating the hospital into a replacement hospital on the campus, which would leave portions of the campus available for redevelopment.

In the report, the 21.9-acre tract is set aside for mixed-use development. The land would generate an estimated $1.6 million in state and local property taxes, $1.47 million of which would go to Baltimore County, the report said.

First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the area that includes the campus between Frederick Road and Wilkens Avenue, said it is "too premature" to say what will happen with the property.

"If the Board of Public Works does declare this surplus, it's open for public bidding, " Quirk said. "Because it's close to the Beltway, you're probably looking at people who are looking at commercial mixed-use."

The area has sparked the interest of residents and developers, who don't see eye-to-eye on the future of the land.

Catonsville developer Steve Whalen, owner Whalen Properties, has expressed a vision for the future of the property, which he plans to turn into "The Promenade at Catonsville", a mixed-use development, which typically includes a combination of hotels, shops and residential units. He owns property adjacent to the 21.9 acre parcel.

A Spring Grove Task Force was created by former Baltimore County Executive James Smith Jr. in 2010 to develop recommendations for future use of land at the campus. Among its recommendations was the acquisition of 15 to 17 acres of land to support Whalen's "Promenade".

Whalen said he is interested in purchasing the property, but is waiting to see what the state's "offering" will be.

"They're going to specify what the offering is and we really need to react to that," Whalen said. "Until we understand what the offer is, we won't know how this will play out."

Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who represents District 10 that includes the area, said regardless of what is done with the land, she would like to see the state hospital maintained on the property.

"If [Whalen] happens to be the one that gets the property, I hope he would not do anything the community would not like," Nathan-Pulliam said. "I don't think he would want that type of controversy."

Residents have voiced opposition to the project in the past, with some forming the group "Catonsville PromeNOT" to keep the issue in the public eye.

Paul Dongarra, a Catonsville resident who is part of the group, said he wasn't surprised to hear the parcel of land may be up for sale.

Dongarra said the project may, "create jobs in the short term, but it may hurt jobs on Catonsville's main street."

Whalen's proposal for the Promenade isn't "smart growth" development, Dongarra said.

Smart growth development is listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as development:

• with mixed land uses;