In the recently concluded state legislative session, Anne Arundel County received approximately $30 million to spend over two years on remediation and renovation costs for the Crownsville Hospital Center property, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced.
This moves Pittman closer to his goal of transforming the former hospital center into a center for nonprofits and health services.
“This is our number one priority,” Pittman said last week of the 2022 General Assembly session.
The money for the 459-acre parcel follows a big win for the project: the property being deemed surplus. Every other state agency was offered to use the property and rejected it.
The next step is for the Board of Public Works to vote on transferring the property, now managed by the state, to the county. Chris Trumbauer, budget officer for the county executive, expects the vote will take place in the coming months.
“Everybody understood the importance of it,” Pittman said.
Pittman said renovation of the 69 buildings on the property will require a lot more than $30 million, especially considering the extensive remediation work that will first need to take place.
“We’ll be undertaking a full environmental assessment,” Trumbauer said. “There needs to be water and sewer work, probably structural work, and, when we decide which buildings we’re going to look to rehabilitate, that’s obviously going to be very expensive. So, I think this is kind of like a down payment on the long-term costs of bringing the vision for that property to a reality.”
Trumbauer said the money will be introduced as a funding source in the county’s upcoming capital budget, and the County Council will vote on whether to approve it.
“[It’s] something I think everybody is generally on board with,” said Trumbauer, who is especially eager to see the property renovated after representing the area on the County Council from 2010-18.
Del. Heather Bagnall, whose district includes Crownsville, said the funding was a priority for her as well this session. When she saw the initial $2.5 million allocation for it in the budget, she knew it wouldn’t be enough.
“I knew that the state had a line item every year for about $1 million just in passive maintenance of the property, so I knew that $2.5 million wasn’t going to go very far,” Bagnall said. “This was a state-created problem, so it needed a state-created solution.”
Bagnall said constituents she spoke with support the idea of making the property a health and nonprofit center. She said it was important to her and her neighbors the property be used to directly benefit the residents. Something they felt a lacrosse stadium, a previously proposed use for the property, wouldn’t do.
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“The community has forever wanted something there, but they wanted something that was a county asset,” she said.
While it may seem a volatile time to invest in such a project ahead of election season, Bagnall, a Democrat, said she is confident the next county executive and County Council will do what it takes to see the work though.
‘Say my name’
Perhaps no one is as thrilled about this progress as local historian Janice Hayes-Williams, who has extensively researched the history of the Crownsville Hospital Center and for the past 17 years has held a memorial there for those who died at the site.
From its founding in 1911 to the 1960s, Crownsville Hospital Center offered substandard care to poor, sick, Black Marylanders and made them work as manual laborers and farmers according to historians, advocates and state officials, including Hayes-Williams. She has made it her mission to ensure those who worked and died there are not forgotten.
This year’s memorial will be on April 30, with ceremonies at 10 a.m. and noon featuring the debut of an original song, “Say My Name,” about Crownsville Hospital Center written and sung by Scottie Preston, a friend of Hayes-Williams.
“The ceremony is going to be big this year because everybody is speaking — Steuart, Heather Bagnall, [Sen.] Sarah Elfreth, [Del.] Shaneka Henson. Everybody is going to be there this year,” Hayes-Williams said. “Always, for me, it’s for the ancestors.”
Pittman’s plans for the site include honoring those who died there. He plans to name the site Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park. Part of that recognition will include a granite wall at the cemetery with the names of all of those who died there, according to Hayes-Williams. She and volunteers have collected the names of more than 1,700 people who are buried there based on information from death certificates.