By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
9:55 PM EDT, April 5, 2013
A Harris Teeter grocery store in Towson and shops, a recreation center and amphitheater in Dundalk are among the ideas developers have for Baltimore County government properties that are up for sale.
The county received eight bids for the three government properties: the fire station at York Road and Bosley Avenue in Towson; the North Point Government Center in Dundalk; and the Randallstown police substation on Liberty Road.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the plan to sell the properties in December, sparking controversy in some communities. Bids were unsealed Friday afternoon.
Cash raised from the sales would go toward improving school buildings in the county. County officials said Friday it would take months to review the proposals.
The Towson firehouse site drew the most interest, with five firms submitting proposals. Those companies were: Vanguard Commercial Development; CVP-TF LLC; Bosley Avenue LLC; 800 York Road LLC; and 718 York Road LLC.
Vanguard also submitted a proposal for the Dundalk site, as did a company called Sollers Investors LLC in Reisterstown.
The Randallstown property drew only one interested party: 101 Development Group LLC, located in Kennett Square, Pa., The group is affiliated with Genesis HealthCare; the site is adjacent to a Genesis skilled nursing center.
The county did not release the developers' proposals, saying the documents would be confidential until awards are made. But some developers reached Friday gave details of their plans.
At the North Point Government Center, Vanguard has proposed 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail, including restaurants, principal Len Weinberg II said. The company also wants to build a 21,000-square-foot recreation center to replace the community facilities there now, and an amphitheater.
"We think [our proposal] has a special touch to it because of the community aspect and trying to make it a real gathering place," Weinberg said.
Some Dundalk residents have criticized the county's plan to sell the government center because they do not want to lose space now used by singing groups, sports teams and other community organizations.
The county's request for proposals requires developers to keep the recreational fields at the center or replace them. Weinberg said his company proposed leaving the ball fields there and improving them.
Debbie Staigerwald of Dundalk United, a group that formed to fight the county's plan to sell the government center, remains skeptical. Even if the center is replaced, she said, the community would lose open space around the site if stores and restaurants are built there.
"They can replace a building, but then once we lose those 27 acres, we're never going to get that back," she said. "And then once they buy it, they could make it into anything else. … So there's no guarantees."
In Towson, Vanguard proposed a Wawa convenience store and gas station and two other tenants, or a 10,000-square-foot retail building, Weinberg said.
Another team of investors wants to build apartments and a Harris Teeter grocery store at the Towson site. The group is made up of Birchwood Capital Partners, Taylor Property Group, and 28 Walker Associates, said David Strouse of Birchwood Capital Partners.
"All the members of our team are Baltimore County residents," Strouse said. "We believe that Towson is a great market and destination, and becoming a 24-hour live-work-play environment that we just want to be a part of."
Other developers could not be reached for comment late Friday.
Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said he was pleased with the amount of interest in the Towson site.
"It shows that it's a valuable piece of property and that Towson is worth investing a lot of money in — that they feel they can get a good return on their investment, which is good news for us," Hartman said.
He said traffic would be a concern no matter what is built at the site, because the intersection already is congested. He also said he would like more detail on all the proposals.
"It's a public property that they're selling off, and I think that we ought to know what all the options are," Hartman said.
County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said officials wanted "to allow a great deal of latitude for creativity among the proposals." She said submissions will be judged by more than the prices the developers are offering to pay. "The RFP evaluation committee will carefully analyze each of the responses over the next several months," she said.
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