A plan for the Warfield site is coming together, with the recent release of a draft development pattern book with a preliminary plan for the site.
The plan, which was presented to the Sykesville Planning Commission on Tuesday evening, lays out the future for the site as a center for business, residential, retail and open space in the northeast of the town.
The Warfield Complex is an approximately 91-acre site owned by the town of Sykesville and managed by Warfield Development Corp. Before the state handed over possession of the site to Sykesville in 2001, the land was used by Springfield Hospital Center.
Of the 91 acres, about 39 will remain the property of Sykesville, according to the pattern book. The remaining land will be sold to The Warfield Collaborative, or TWC, and developed in accordance with the pattern book.
Under guidelines associated with the site's designation as a Planned Employment Center, the site must consist of 20 to 55 percent office/research/institutional/light industrial space, 10 to 20 percent retail/service, 10 to 35 percent residential and no less than 25 percent open space, according to the pattern book.
It is also subject to guidelines set forth as part of an easement agreement with the Maryland Historical Trust, the pattern book states. Among other requirements, those guidelines specify that all construction on the site must abide by the visual and physical aspects of the historical portions of the property.
While the pattern book says many of the structures on the site are in good condition, only two of the 14 buildings on the property have been renovated and are occupied today. Carroll County Dance Center and Nexion Health are the tenants in those buildings, according to the pattern book.
Sean Davis, a principal at Morris & Ritchie Associates, which produced the pattern book, presented the plan for the site to the Sykesville Planning Commission.
"This has been a long time coming," Davis told the commission.
The vision for the revamped site includes a blend of residences, shops, businesses and recreational spaces, and hotel space, according to the pattern book.
The aim, the pattern book says, is to incorporate a mix of new construction along with the historic buildings, roads and parks that already exist on the campus. When it is complete, the plan says, the development will tie in to Sykesville's Main Street and provide a larger presence for the town along Md. 32.
Among the new uses, a market analysis of the site conducted in June by Valbridge Property Advisors suggested small professional offices, small grocery stores, convenience stores and limited-service hotels could do well at Warfield.
Some commission members said they worried about a lack of adequate demand for office space brought up in the market analysis. Overall, about 8 percent of office space in the area is vacant, while the vacancy rate for retail space rests at about 18 percent, the largest of which is the former Walmart site, the market analysis found. Davis assured the commission that new space would not be constructed on the site until tenants are secured.
Market-rate apartments and townhouses could also be a good fit, the market analysis found, though the plan does not include construction of apartments.
"We … judge that the limited and outdated multifamily rental supply in the trade area significantly undershoots today's market, especially since a high proportion of units are age and/or income restricted," the analysis of two parcels of the property states. "It is reasonable to expect that, with an expansion of higher quality product, the general occupancy rental supply in South Carroll could find market support for an increase of up to 600 units."
The plan includes the construction of 145 townhouses.
Residential portions of the site will be the first ones developed, with lots delivered to homebuilders by fall 2017, according to the pattern book. Depending on market conditions, the units could take three to four years to complete, the book said.
When the project receives final approval, TWC will begin to market the retail, hotel and office sites, and TWC will report regularly to the town on progress, the pattern book said.
Commission members said they would like more information from those involved with the project on cost sharing related to roads on the site. They also questioned the use of siding on portions of planned residences where the existing architecture at the side is largely composed of brick exteriors.
Scott Scarfone, a consultant hired by the town to help review the plan, said he wanted to see more open space incorporated throughout the development. He also said he wants more information on site accessibility.
Davis told the commission that he would like to see some of the parking requirements adjusted to reflect common practice in other areas around the region.
Having submitted the book to the county, the group needs county stormwater approval before it can move forward, Davis said. A county Technical Review Committee will also provide feedback on the plan, he said, and a traffic study is underway.
The commission will host another work session on the draft plan later this month. On Oct. 3, the town will host a public hearing on the plan, with revisions made to reflect feedback.
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"We're excited to be seeing the plan," Mayor Ian Shaw said. He said he is especially interested in the hotel and commercial amenities the plan hopes to bring to the town.
"Overall, I'm excited about getting the site developed," he said.
The plan is available for review 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Sykesville Town House, at 7547 Main St.
*Editor's note: This story has been updated