Retreat's members would get to talk shop


They say it's not always a good idea to mix business with pleasure, but a stockbroker with Alex. Brown and Sons believes he has hit upon a development concept that no one can fault.

Jonathan T. Ginn, a stockbroker in the Easton office of Alex. Brown, has a contract to buy a 1,550-acre farm on the outskirts of Cecilton, on the Eastern Shore.

He is working on plans to build a $100 million business center and members-only retreat for some of the nation's top corporate executives. It also would be a sports lover's paradise, with five "signature" golf courses and a large health and fitness center.

The idea for the exclusive compound, called Linden Manor, is to create a place where corporate executives can get away from their offices and relax -- yet continue to transact business.

"The concept was to find a location to combine business and sports," Mr. Ginn said. "It's not a golf community. It's a business center. It's important to me that the members [are] able to conduct business 24 hours a day."

There are many top golf resorts around the country that seek to capitalize on the national craze for golf, but none of them really have the business facilities and private corporate retreats that Linden Manor will have, he explained. "We're sort of taking a golf club and adding the business dimension."

As a result, he explained, members of Linden Manor will be able to discuss business as they play golf, but then they will be able to go back to their company-owned retreats on the premises and continue to do business without going back to the office.

"If you are a CEO and if you want to play golf and have dinner and go to a retreat, it's all there," he said.

"I don't know of any other place where you can do that," he added. "According to our research, it's never been done. And there are none on the drawing boards that we're aware of."

Mr. Ginn has been working on the concept for the past seven years apart from his stockbroker job, and says Alex. Brown has no connection to the project.

Last fall, he obtained approval from Cecil County's Office of Planning and Zoning to build the complex on the Linden Manor farm property, which is bounded roughly by Routes 282 and 213 and Christopher and Bohemia Church roads.

He is seeking a development partner and financing for the project and hopes to start construction later this year, with completion in mid-1993, he said.

As approved by Cecil County, the plan for Linden Manor includes:

* Linden Manor Business Center, a 150,000-square-foot financial center complete with a teleport, a high-tech communications center able to receive and transmit voice, data and video information by satellite, fiber optics and microwave.

Also part of the manor would be a series of meeting facilities, NTC dining rooms and the "Linden Institute," a learning center run by the Aspen Institute.

* A 60,000-square-foot health and fitness center with a tennis club, pool, squash, racquetball and basketball courts and other facilities. There also would be an equestrian center.

* Five 18-hole "signature golf courses, a 20-acre circular practice range, a 9-hole par three course and an 18-hole putting course.

Designers for the five main golf courses are Rees Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Arthur Hills and Mike Hurdzan.

* A 50-pad heliport for executives flying in from around the country.

* The Town of Linden Manor, a village of corporate and individual retreats to be built by the members. Included with each membership to Linden Manor will come a retreat site that can be developed as the members desire, as long as they adhere to preset architectural guidelines.

LDR International Inc. of Columbia is the planner for the project, and Perry Dean Rogers and Partners of Boston is the lead architect.

Other participants in the project include: People Karch International, which would be responsible for the health and fitness center; the International Association of Conference Centers of Fenton, Mo., which would manage the conference center, and Horizon Helicopters of Newark, Del., which would operate the heliport.

Mr. Ginn said admission to Linden Manor would be limited to members and their guests, and that much of the funds needed for construction would come from members' initial fees to join Linden Manor.

He said that he has not set a price structure yet, but that it would be higher than any other golf courses in the area. He added that he expects members to come from the ranks of corporations worldwide but that many are likely to be based in the mid-Atlantic, within an hour-and-a-half helicopter ride from Cecil County.

Mr. Ginn said he is scheduled to acquire the property by June and that he hopes to have more information about a developer and other team members soon. He added that the project is expected to result in the creation of about 500 permanent jobs.

Residents of Cecilton and other parts of Cecil County first learned about the project at town meeting last fall and have been supportive.

"The impact would be minimal, as far as people coming into town," said town clerk Doris Matthews. After the initial town meetings, "there hasn't been that much talk about it, really."

Ms. Matthews said she thinks the land is attractive enough to support the kind of project Mr. Ginn envisions and says the new jobs would be welcome. But she also knows that it won't happen unless the project gets backing.

As compelling as the vision might be, she said, "he's still got to sell the corporations."

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