Renovation costs may outweigh the appeal of the architecture, but the state is asking potential buyers to take a look at the Warfield Complex at Springfield Hospital Center.
Officials of the state health department soon will declare the 15 buildings on 131 acres surplus and offer the property in Sykesville to other state agencies.
"Given the work needed on the buildings and the money that doesn't exist in the state, I doubt if we will have any takers," said Elizabeth Barnard, director of the Office of Planning and Capitol Financing at the health department.
The state has advertised Warfield, hoping to find someone with some idea of how taxpayers can get a return on a 100-year-old investment.
"We are looking for the private sector to give us suggestions on what to do before we market this property," Ms. Barnard said. "We want input on what can be done and what kind of financial structures would benefit the buyer and us."
Ms. Barnard led about a dozen architects, real estate representatives, consultants and town officials on a tour of the buildings and grounds yesterday.
"We would like to see jobs and taxes generated from here, but we don't know how realistic that is," she said.
The visitors, including two members of the Sykesville Historic District Commission, were impressed by amenities such as terrazzo-tiled floors and walls of windows. Many took notes and photographs and promised to ponder the possibilities.
The town of Sykesville, just across Route 32 from the site, would like to annex Warfield and zone it for industrial use. The town delivered its proposal to the state last month and had a restoration architect study the buildings.
"Structurally, we know the buildings are in wonderful shape," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager. "The buildings are solid brick and would take forever to demolish, but why would you destroy them anyway?"
The town recently signed a $1-a-year lease with the state for the hospital's Gatehouse. Volunteers are renovating it into a town museum.
"The Gatehouse project is a good example of cooperation between the town and the state," said Robert B. McLeod, project chairman. "We plan to have the building up and functional by summer."
The visitors found clean, well-preserved interiors, many partitioned into large wards for patients who no longer come to the hospital. The open areas lend themselves easily to rehabilitation, Mr. Candland said.
"These were built for ease of maintenance," said Fred Glassberg, a consultant with Crystal Hill Advisors in Columbia.
Kevin Small, an architect with Frederick Ward Associates in Bel Air, said narrower interiors make renovations difficult.
"I came to look at the grounds and see what uses there might be," Mr. Small said. "It would be terrible to tear these buildings down."
Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, said he could see a technical training center or a satellite college campus in Warfield.
Nearly all the buildings are on the Maryland Register of Historic Properties and are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Historical value aside, a buyer still faces major expenses to make the buildings usable. Although the roofs do not leak and the basements are dry, the buildings are rated in poor condition, with lead paint and numerous code deficiencies. Removing asbestos would cost about $800,000.
The complex has public water and sewer service through the county's Freedom District system. Heating, plumbing and electrical systems function but need upgrading. In Regan Hall, for example, there is no way to turn the heat down.
Nine of the buildings have been vacant for about a decade. The number of patients at Springfield, established in 1896, has declined from about 3,000 to fewer than 400.
The hospital has found partial uses for three Warfield buildings and leases three more to other agencies. Only Warfield E, which houses Shoemaker Addictions Rehabilitation Center, operated by the Carroll County Health Department, has been renovated.
Although several other sections of the hospital are vacant and are costing the state to maintain, officials have chosen Warfield as the most marketable, Ms. Barnard said.
"We picked Warfield because it is primarily empty and is on the edge of the Springfield campus," she said.
Ms. Barnard has planned a meeting for 9 a.m. March 13 in the Kitchen Building at Springfield. She invited all those who toured Warfield to bring their ideas.