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State Releases Report on Future of Spring Grove

Office use as well as science and research space have the biggest potential for economic impact.

The redevelopment of has the potential for huge economic impact in the region, with the greatest benefit being utilizing part of its land for office space and research and development, a state study found.

The findings came from a study and conducted by the Maryland Development Economic Corporation. A copy of the study was obtained by Patch.

The $50,000 study was included in last year’s state budget to look into redevelopment of the land after Spring Grove consolidates its services on the 190-acre property. The is an inpatient psychiatric facility that has been at its location on Wade Avenue since 1853. It is the second oldest continually operating psychiatric hospital in the United States.

The study looked at four potential uses for the Catonsville property: land for a new hospital, land for for expansion of its research park, land for recreation space and land for mixed use development. The study concluded that all potential uses for the land are feasible, but cautioned that economic factors and the cost of building a new hospital could be prohibitive. The report also stated that it could take up to a decade to construct a new hospital.

The findings of the study pull from prior reports on the land, including a 2001 state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene study for re-use and a 2006 Baltimore County task force that produced a separate report.

The acreage for each potential use is as follows: 41.5 acres for the hospital, 37.7 acres for office space, 21.9 acres for commercial or mixed use, 31.3 for recreation, 41.9 for a forest buffer and 51.4 acres for roads and other use. The acreage allotments for both UMBC and recreation are less than the 50 acres each that both groups requested.

Redevelopment of the land for office or commercial use has the biggest potential for a financial windfall for local and state governments, the report said, because of tax revenue and the economic impact of having storefronts on the land. Space for land used by UMBC and for open space do not have as much of a financial benefit, the report said.

In 2010, the hospital had an average daily population of 377 inpatient and 66 assisted living patients. Many of the 48 buildings on the campus are in disrepair and are not in use.  Because of the broad layout of the campus, state officials said it costs an additional $10.6 million to keep the hospital running at the Catonsville location.

The study determined that if 41 acres are needed for a new hospital, other departments and organizations on the property would need to relocate, including the Westside Emergency Men's Homeless Shelter and other Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offices.

The study lays out several options for where the various parcels are developed and also notes the potential for the land to be re-purposed in stages.

“Careful consideration will need to be given to that sequence and the associated upgrade and expansion of infrastructure, all of which are dependent on available funding. From a site planning perspective, selection of users for specific parcels and the release of individual sections for development in an orderly sequence will minimize the early investment in infrastructure,” the authors wrote.

While land for recreation space and the expansion of the UMBC research park are fairly straightforward, the biggest and most contentious variable is the plan for mixed-use development.

Catonsville developer Steve Whalen has proposed constructing a mixed-use property called the Promenade. The project has raised objections by some in the Catonsville community for the negative impact to traffic and small locally owned business along Frederick Road.

The study breaks down the types of businesses and residences that could work on the land, which include office space, a book store, specialty retail shop, a grocery store, restaurants, a movie theater, a health club, a limited service hotel, an extended stay hotel, condos and townhomes.

Each type of use would generate varying degrees of economic development impact with research services and restaurants having the potential to generate between $800,000 and $1 million in revenue per 1,000 square feet.  A health club and a movie theater would have the lowest level of impact in revenue at less than $100,000 per 1,000 square feet.

The biggest financial windfall would be office use, which would generate more than $2 million in revenue per 1,000 square feet. Office use also would yield the greatest number of jobs than any other use.

Authors of the study note that while the financial windfall may be less for other properties, a mixed-use redevelopment would include multiple uses.

A problem is, however, that the Catonsville/Ellicott City market has an availability rate of 10.9 percent for 6.3 million square feet of retail space. The vacancy rate for office space in the area is 11.1 percent, which is by contrast one of the lowest rates in the region.

There is also a potential benefit for the state of Maryland through programs that would support Medicaid funding by continuing to use a portion of the land for the hospital.

In summary, the authors cautioned that Baltimore County and the state would benefit financially from the sale and redevelopment of the land, but the exact amount is dependent on the future state of the economy.

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Arbutus Town Crier June 01, 2012 at 12:42 PM
How about revitalization in an area needed, I know some run down apartment complex could buy at the right price? Taking land away for other generations and the area left behind goes to ruin is not the way to go, we have destroyed many areas in Maryland. In Northern Arbutus we have had new neighbors every year, Fox, Ground hog, Opossum, Beaver, and currently a raccoon. Is Nature telling us something? I'm no tree-hugger but enough is enough, they build and we will get more neighbors. I can see police station and courthouse, let UMBC have that space to do as they please. UMBC did enough damaged putting the research park where the deer and other wild animals went to drink at the pond. I grew up with farmers that know nature well better then us city folks we have to stay in balance put the rest under a wildlife refuge for everyone can enjoy. Oh that common sense!
perry ryan August 12, 2012 at 12:19 AM
i sort of....like the fact that it is there.its kinda the only thing i love about catonsville, so i dont want the buildings torn down.its history and its interesting.aaand i want to pull an all nighter there sometime.DONT TEAR IT DOWN PLEAAAAAAAAASE!its so cool having it.its mysterious.
Peg Buckmaster August 14, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Save the buildings for historical perspectives and create a park for the community like centennial park! Trails - both paved and unpaved......picnic area........COMMUNITY use and enjoyment!!!!!
Joe August 14, 2012 at 02:24 AM
"21.9 acres for commercial or mixed use" Well look at that! Almost the exact same size Whalen has been scheming to buy at Spring Grove for his boondoggle the Promenade. Hey Steve, how about getting gaming at your Promenade?
MR August 30, 2012 at 02:48 AM
You summed it up beautifully...

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