County reviews applications on Manresa project


Building applications to turn Manresa, the former Broadneck retreat center, into an assisted living facility for the elderly are being reviewed by the county Permit Application Center this week.

The new owners of Manresa-on-the-Severn last week submitted interior demolition permit applications so a Baltimore-based contractor can start turning the 34,000 square-foot mansion into an 86-bed center.

Under the permit applications, the American Health Foundation (AHF), an Ohio nonprofit group that bought the Severn River waterfront property May 31, wants to put a three-story, 15,000 square-foot addition on the back of the frame house. The company, which runs 15 nursing homes in six states, will add parking and improve a garden.

The $3.3 million construction project should take a year, said Len Moser, project manager for Barton Malow, the Baltimore company that will renovate the building.

Mr. Moser said that once his office sends the county some final drawings next week, he hopes a crew will be "on site within the next few weeks" to begin work on the nearly 70-year-old building.

Neighbors said they were glad to know the land was not sold to a developer.

"My own reaction was 'Go for it' because we're so far behind in meeting those needs" in the county, said Gretyl Derby, who lives in nearby Cape St. Claire.

Ms. Derby said assisted living facilities "meet a very real need and as such, I personally support and would recommend that my community support them." At assisted living centers, staff members help residents to bathe, eat and take medicine and perform other chores.

Manresa once was owned by Jesuit fathers of Baltimore's Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergy and used by clergy and lay people for spiritual retreats. It was founded on Aug. 13, 1926, when a group of Catholic laymen from Baltimore and Washington bought 30 acres from the president of the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad for $640.

The retreat and conference center has served nearly 10,000 people a year. J. Edgar Hoover regularly took FBI agents there, an Alcoholics Anonymous group met there, and midshipmen from the Naval Academy went there on retreats.

The center, a white mansion with two-story pillars, closed in the summer of 1993 for lack of money and manpower. A family-run Eastern Shore company had a contract to buy the scenic 10.5-acre hillside property last year, but couldn't secure the financing, said AHF president John Haemmerle. AHF assumed the contract and bought the mansion for "around $3 million," he ** said.

AHF's mission is to provide "highest quality health care at a reasonable price," said Mr. Haemmerle, who estimated that rooms at the center will cost about $90 a day.

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