Warfield project manager to be hired

The Baltimore Sun

Sykesville and Carroll County officials are planning to hire a project manager to oversee the business redevelopment of the $11 million Warfield Complex, hoping to increase the industrial tax base in the region while preserving historic buildings on the former grounds of Springfield Hospital Center.

The combined public-private Warfield Development Corp. will hire a developer or develop in chunks a business park at the 96-acre complex, which includes 12 historic buildings and five additional parcels that will be built, said Brad Rees, president of the nine-member Warfield Development Corp. board.

"We are obviously anxious to get something going," Rees said. "We tried to open the process up to expand our options to get a little more flexibility in allowing us to move the project forward as quickly as we can."

But Rees said new tenants probably will not move into the complex for another 18 months to two years. He said the Warfield Development Corp. hopes to have a deal negotiated with a developer in three to six months, gain appropriate zoning approvals within a year and spend another six months to a year reconstructing the site.

Only two businesses, Nexion Health Inc. and a dance studio, are tenants at Warfield. However, Rees said that several biotechnology firms have expressed interest in moving into the site.

Negotiations with a Columbia-based real estate firm that was hoping to oversee the development fell through this summer. The firm, Manekin LLC, wanted the county and Sykesville to first make expensive infrastructure improvements to roads and water and sewer lines, Rees said.

Arthur Peck, chairman of the county Industrial Development Authority, said he supported Manekin's proposal, despite the Warfield board's opposition.

The Warfield redevelopment plan also stalled when its former project manager, Jay French, left that job eight months ago, Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman said.

"Now that we've replaced him, things are going to pick up and start moving again," Herman said.

To help identify Warfield development proposals, Annapolis-based Smart Growth Initiatives is being hired to navigate the process, Rees said.

He said the Warfield Development Corp. also met with the Carroll County commissioners to explain why it had rejected the original proposal from Manekin.

The development board has been discussing the project with at least a dozen interested developers and tenants in the past year, Rees said.

He said Manekin also is expected to submit a revised proposal for Warfield.

Thomas J. Rio, chief of the county bureau of building construction, said Manekin has successfully developed other projects in Carroll. The company designed and built the $2.9 million local Health Department headquarters in 1997.

Rio said he also expects the company to bid on the $30 million construction of Carroll Community College's building No. 4, to be put out to bid by year's end.

"They were very good to work with," Rio said of Manekin's design-build project for the Health Department.

Herman also said the Warfield Complex could not really move forward until the State Highway Administration completed a $9 million project linking the Route 32 intersection to the property last October.

The intersection now has two lanes in each direction, turn lanes and a pedestrian underpass to facilitate traffic flow.

"Now we're set up pretty good to really entertain developers," Herman said. "Everything is going according to plan."

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Warfield Complex's century-old buildings are eligible for state and federal tax credits. But applying for those once-a-year grants has delayed the renovation process, Rees said.

The board hopes to receive soon state awards to reconstruct two buildings next to Nexion Health Inc., a nursing home management corporation.

Both brick buildings are 16,000-square-foot structures, similar to Nexion's site, which required 18 months and $3 million to reconstruct.

Nexion President Francis B. Kirley said the company tapped into $1.2 million in federal and state tax credits for the project.

Nexion has a 45-year lease on its building.

Developers likely will sign 50-year or 100-year leases on the other Warfield properties, Rees said.

"It's not something that you rush into lightly," he said.


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