The Anne Arundel Health Department is nearing a agreement to lease most of the former Robinson's building as a likely site for an expanded supplemental food program and other community health programs.
That would give the run-down, 43-year-old building at Ritchie Highway and Baltimore and Annapolis Boulevard its first tenant in about 5 years.
The county and building owner, Aspen Joint Ventures, continue to negotiate, but "we've agreed in concept," Easton lawyer Paul Jones, Aspen's lead partner, said yesterday.
Evelyn Stein, Health Department spokeswoman, said the former department store is being eyed as a site for the Women, Infants and Children program, but must first be approved by the state.
"It's a ways away, from our perspective," she said.
She said the federal and state-funded supplemental food and nutrition education program is outgrowing available space in health clinics around the county.
WIC has grown from a $346,250 a year program serving 3,800 clients countywide in fiscal 1992 to one with a $482,500 budget for 5,200 clients -- and much of that growth has been in the northern areas of the county, Ms. Stein said.
"It's a matter of expansion, and it's a proposal," she said. "We are looking for an expansion opportunity for WIC."
Other health programs are being evaluated, but it is too soon to know if other programs might also move there, Ms. Stein said. But even if they do, she cautioned, the department is not looking to close any clinics.
Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for the county executive, said there has been talk of merging or moving the Freetown health clinic or some of its services, but that would not happen soon.
Patricia Barland, the county's commercial revitalization manager, told members of the Glen Burnie Urban Renewal Advisory Committee last month that the county has delayed pursuing the building owners for safety and other violations because they were negotiating a lease. The owners would refurbish the building to suit tenants.
Low-income mothers can be certified for the WIC program at five health centers. They can pick up food vouchers at nine locations, where they also receive nutrition counseling, individually or in small groups.
The Robinson's building is near other social services, on bus routes and across Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard from the county parking garage.
Tom Guckenburg, real estate agent for the property, said the county has not decided how much of the building it is interested in, but it is probably about 11,000 square feet of the approximately 16,000-square-foot first floor. The rest could be leased by a retailer, he said.
The owners would like to turn the second floor, which has 3,500 square feet, into offices and are talking with a possible tenant, Mr. Jones said. The building would need more than $500,000 in repairs and other work and would not be ready until at least October, the real estate agent said.
Mr. Guckenburg said the owners expect to ask the State Highway Administration to add a crosswalk and curb cuts for wheelchairs in that block of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard to make it easier for people to come directly across the street from the free county garage instead of going another block to reach a corner crosswalk.