WHEN TWO of Carroll County's most active commercial real estate agents don't know the local government is selling a surplus building in the heart of the county seat, something is terribly wrong with the way the county handles its land sales. Until recently, the Industrial Development Authority's attempt to sell the "Glass House" in the 100 block of Distillery Drive in Westminster was one of the county's best-kept secrets.
The three-level building was once used to dry grain as part of the former Sherwood distillery. Designed with the clean, straight lines characteristic of the Bauhaus-style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, the structure is architecturally significant enough to merit a listing on the state's inventory of historic buildings.
The building has been empty for years, even before the county purchased the Sherwood complex in 1990. At some point during the past year, the IDA, which markets and develops industrial property for the county, received two proposals for it. David Max, the owner of Winchester Exchange, and Sal Romeo, the owner of Paradiso restaurant, submitted proposals to buy and develop the building.
How they knew the IDA was looking for buyers is something of a mystery, but the agency decided in late August to reject both bids. The IDA is now marketing the building through newspaper advertisements and commercial development channels.
By spreading the word far and wide that the Glass House is available, the county is in a much better position to receive some interesting proposals. Obtaining the highest price for the building should not be the IDA's only objective. Instead, the authority should team up with the Greater Westminster Development Corp. to locate developers with interests beyond just office buildings, which only attract people during working hours.
The building could be an exciting location for a restaurant, an art gallery or a performance center. With its large expanse of windows and the proper lighting, the building could radiate light in an otherwise dreary corner of the city. If successful, the rehabilitation of this architectural gem could serve as an example of the possibilities that exist in downtown Westminster and that developers are currently overlooking.