Vacant buildings at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville could soon get a new lease as college campuses.
The town, which hopes to annex the property known as the Warfield Complex and renovate the buildings, has interested Carroll Community College and Touro College, a multinational school based in New York, in the century-old buildings along Route 32.
The state found no use for the 131-acre property and offered it to the town a year ago. Sykesville organized a weeklong planning session to plan Warfield's development and held public hearings to inform residents.
The colleges emerged as ideal tenants for the clustered brick buildings that resemble a campus, said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.
Town voters will decide in a Feb. 17 referendum whether they want to annex the property and direct its development. At a public hearing Jan. 25, officials will review the information on potential users and benefits to the town. Development would not require town money.
Carroll Community College has asked the state for $2.9 million to "create an important economic development engine" at Warfield, according to its proposal for a Higher Education and Applied Technology (HEAT) Center.
About 23 state colleges and universities are interested in a HEAT Center in Central Maryland, said Joseph F. Shields, Carroll Community College president.
"This would be an opportunity for college education through graduate level in cooperation with other institutions in the state," said Shields. "Students can complete bachelor and graduate degrees."
Harford County has had success with its HEAT Center in Aberdeen, which had about 50 students complete three years of graduate studies last summer, said Paul Jones, director of the off-campus program and a professor in the college of education at Towson University.
The center attracts many teachers working toward master's degrees in education. University of Maryland, Loyola College and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland offer programs through it and assess tuition fees.
Centers offer convenience
"Convenience is making these centers successful, especially with working adults," Jones said. "A lot of our students are young parents, who don't have the time to drive to Towson or Baltimore. Teachers can leave their classrooms, come here once a week and be home by 7 p.m."
Carroll County could offer its residents a similar time-saving program. Through a combination of interactive video, Internet and traditional classroom instruction, a student could study in noted institutions' undergraduate and graduate programs without leaving the county, according to the community college proposal.
The Sykesville center would offer programs that focus on the needs of businesses and residents. It could also offer technology services and training through a teleconferencing center.
"As a major economic development growth area and a heavily traveled gateway to the Washington area, Sykesville is an ideal site for a higher education initiative," according to the college's proposal.
The college surveyed county businesses and found almost all were interested in the continuing education and employee training that a HEAT Center could offer.
The center would need about 30,000 square feet in the buildings -- which offer more than 10 times that amount -- for multimedia classrooms, interactive video, technical and computer labs and a telecommuting center that would connect users to colleges and businesses. Warfield has a cafeteria and an auditorium, which could be renovated.
'Expand its business'
Herman sees the center as an important economic tool for Carroll County and a way to educate the local work force.
"Carroll County has an addiction to residential development," said Herman. "It sorely needs to find ways to expand its business and industrial development. The center offers continuing education for working adults, cuts down on road trips and creates a wonderful business environment."
The possibility of a business center at Warfield would attract small businesses, said Herman.
"This follows closely the governor's Smart Growth initiative, and the state may be able to use Warfield as a model," said Herman. "It should be a priority funding area."
Smart Growth directs development to existing communities, like Sykesville, and offers state money for projects such as the center.
Touro College interested
Touro College, which was founded in 1970 and has campuses in New York, California, Israel, Austria, India and Russia, is interested in the South Carroll town. It has begun the process to gain state accreditation, hoping to open a satellite campus for about 300 students by September 2000.
"We have had a cordial, encouraging welcome from the state," said Ed Finder, Touro's spokesman. "We will be meeting with other colleges to demonstrate how our programs will not be in competition with theirs."
Touro is a liberal arts college with graduate programs in law and medicine. The New York City campus has about 9,500 students.
Almost 20 out-of-state colleges have campuses in Maryland, said John Sabatini, assistant secretary for planning and academic affairs with the state Higher Education Commission.
The state will review Touro's faculty, curriculum and accreditation with boards in New York and California, said Sabatini, who met with the college's representatives last month.
"They explained their mission and why it is important for them to be in Maryland," Sabatini said.
The Carroll campus would have undergraduate studies with a heavy emphasis on health care, Finder said.
"We have had architects looking at the Warfield buildings to see how they would lay out," Finder said. "They are also making comparisons with our new school of health sciences in Bay Shore," N.Y.
Pub Date: 1/17/99