The long-anticipated redevelopment of the Farmers Supply Co. site in downtown Westminster has been delayed while the project's key player tackles the millennium computer bug.
Officials at Carroll County Bank and Trust Co., which is redeveloping the property into a $6 million office and retail complex, said yesterday that construction will be pushed back by about five months to ensure the bank has resolved the year 2000 problem before moving its operations center.
The "Y2K" bug is a glitch in all but the newest computer software that renders dates after Dec. 31, 1999, invalid, potentially turning bank ledgers and business records into nonsense. Carroll County Bank and Trust is updating its software to avoid such problems.
"We feel comfortable that we'll have everything in place by the fourth quarter of 1999, but still you don't want to go forward with a move that might complicate the year 2000 transition," said Ed Gottleib, the bank's senior vice president.
Gottleib said he expects the bank will move its operations center from Route 140 and Englar Road to the Farmers Supply site at Liberty and Green streets by April 2000.
The bank, a subsidiary of Westminster-based Mason-Dixon Bancshares, had hoped to move in October 1999. Those hopes dimmed when design plans for the bank's new operations center took about four weeks longer than expected.
"We're using a long-term strategy instead of trying to rush the construction process," said Gottleib.
The renovation of the Farmers Supply site was made possible through a partnership among the bank, city officials and the nonprofit Westminster Town Center Corp.
In fall 1996, the city formed a partnership with the corporation, then took an option on the property and solicited proposals for development. Three unwanted structures on the 1-acre parcel were demolished this summer.
A historic stone building, which dates to the 1860s, will be renovated by Town Center organization, which received a $75,000 grant from the state's Neighborhood Business Development Program to help fund the project, which will cost about $400,000.
Members of the nonprofit group's board of directors said the bank's decision to delay construction should not affect their plans for the stone building, which the group intends to lease. Several retail and office outlets have expressed interest in the building.
The only glitch could come if settlement is postponed. Should that happen, there is a chance that the nonprofit group could lose the $75,000 state grant.
"It's not clear exactly what, if anything, would happen if settlement were delayed, but suffice it to say that we're very anxious to go to settlement," said Karen K. Blandford, executive director of Westminster Town Center Corp. and manager of the city's Office of Housing and Community Development.
The Farmers Supply property, about a block south of Main
Street, is one of four sites that consultants have labeled key to a healthy central business district.
The other properties are the former J. C. Penney store on West Main Street, and the volunteer fire company building and post office, both on East Main Street. Those buildings have been renovated for other uses.
Construction at the Farmers Supply property will include a two-story office center above a three-level parking garage and a five-story retail tower. Bank officials are expected to make a presentation to the Common Council next month, outlining the project's new timetable.
Pub Date: 9/23/98