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One proposal received for development Farmers Supply site called central to downtown well-being; More plans were hoped for; Officials to study application, consider a partnership


Westminster officials hoped to pick and choose among several proposals to develop the Farmers Supply Co. property, but received only one formal application for the crucial downtown site.

The mayor and City Council, and the new nonprofit Westminster Town Center Corp., which was formed to help develop the site, will review the proposal and decide whether to enter a partnership within the next few weeks.

Karen K. Blandford, administrator of the city's Housing and Community Development office, said although a flurry of interest was expressed in the 1-acre site, only one developer submitted a proposal by Tuesday's deadline.

City officials declined to discuss the proposal.

"It is a very strong proposal," Blandford said.

The city has taken a nonbinding option on the site at Liberty and Green streets and has entered into a new kind of venture to find a partner to develop the property. The Westminster Town Center Corp. is a seven-member board composed of residents and city officials.

The city's option on the site doesn't expire until June.

City officials, community leaders and a consultant's report all have said the site is central to downtown's well-being. A stone building on the property is believed to date from the 1880s, when it was part of the old B. F. Shriver Canning Co. complex.

"I know there is great interest in that site," said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of Greater Westminster Development Corp. "Hopefully, the one proposal for that site will meet the criteria."

When a development plan is ready, the city can seek money from the state, including up to $500,000 from the Neighborhood Business Development Program, up to $40,000 from the Maryland Historic Trust, and community development block grants.

After an Oct. 1 presentation, the city mailed information packets throughout the state seeking proposals.

In announcing its search, city officials used a schematic plan by a Taneytown land-planning and design consultant, which they hoped might inspire others.

The sketches by J. Christopher Batten featured a square tower for office or retail space, with two-decked parking in the rear. The old stone building was tied to the new buildings by a glass-enclosed courtyard, for a shop or restaurant.

Batten said yesterday that he had hoped to be involved in developing the site.

"I was hoping one of the bigger developers would contact me. But it seems like they're going to have to do it again," he said of the city's search for proposals.

"One isn't enough. I'm surprised, and disappointed, both," he said. "We need to find out why more people didn't respond. It seems the kind of project that would draw more."

The deadline for submissions was Tuesday. The deadline probably won't be extended, Blandford said. No one complained about the deadline, although numerous inquiries were made about the Farmers Supply property, she said.

"There was one party we met with several times. And we have been asked, 'If no one responds, please get back to me,' in a couple of cases," she said.

The city and corporation officials envisioned a mix of shops, office and housing that kept the old building, as in Batten's sketches, she said.

"Some [developers] decided not to bid, but they said, 'You know what I want, so if there's another site, please keep me in mind,' " Blandford said.

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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