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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Damien Gibbons March 15, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Interesting...hope they don't tear down the Psychotic Ward building right next to Rice Auditorium. If there were ever a place that looks like a haunted house, that's it. Metal bars on the windows falling out, 150-year old stonework, creepy sounds coming out of it when the wind is up...the whole deal. It's an ideal horror movie location.
Sean Tully March 15, 2012 at 08:00 PM
The funny thing is that we don't need any more of any of these choices in this area, except for the open space. It will probably become just another ugly office park. Too bad. Such a waste of open space.
Bruce Goldfarb (Editor) March 15, 2012 at 08:22 PM
What would you like to see at Spring Grove, Sean? Everybody wants it--UMBC, a new police station, developers, etc. What would you do with the open space?
Penny Riordan March 15, 2012 at 08:30 PM
It's important to note that open space/recreation/ball fields are all the same thing in the report, which can be put on the property in addition to a new hospital, land for UMBC and space for mixed-use development. There is also acreage for a forest buffer. The totals are in the report and the article.
Native March 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Take the buildings down & leave it as a park.
Dave Ditman March 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM
The oldest hospital building on the property, the Foster-Wade Psychopathic building was constructed between 1914 and 1927. There some older structures, such as the laundry, the old firehouse, the old bakery, and the two extant gatehouse, but all the standing medical buildings were built in the 20th century. The Civil War era "Old Main" building was demolished in 1964.
Michael Grimes March 16, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I want Arbutus to be a college town. Let UMBC develop most of it with an expectation of ROI to the community. Maybe Whalen could convince RRGC to let him put up a few houses on their fairways... or at least let me walk my dog.
Chuck March 16, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Kinda like Gibbons, right ?
Damien Gibbons March 16, 2012 at 05:51 AM
Chuck, I hope I'm reading this wrong, but are you implying I'm a waste of space? If so, I'd love to know the rationale behind that random and uncalled-for insult. If I'm misreading this or not understanding, please disregard, but either way I'd love to know what you meant.
Damien Gibbons March 16, 2012 at 05:56 AM
Ah wait, just occurred to me: referencing the abandoned Cardinal Gibbons campus? If so, I feel like a doof...I have a rare enough last name that I'm still not used to there being a well-known place nearby with the same name, haha.
Lorna D. Rudnikas March 16, 2012 at 12:25 PM
As President of the Wilkens Police & Community Relations Organization (WPCRO) I am very sorry to see that relocation for the Wilkens Precinct 1 is not included for that site. The need is great, the opportunity to keep the Precinct 1 within close proximity to the current location and the benefit to surrounding communities and any business/research park/open space that may be planned is without question. Perhaps further review down the road will put more focus in this direction and a decision in favor of relocating the Precinct 1 there will prevail. Seems like so much common sense to me and our Wilkens Police & Community Relations Organization as a whole sees it as a most favorable opportunity for all concerned.
Sean Tully March 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I wouldn't mind seeing the police build a new station up there with the rest open space. If developers want to build more office space, no thanks. Let them work on getting Maiden Choice Shopping Center back on track and filling all the other existing office buildings before they start building more. The new Lansdowne Crossing if more than half empty and they want to build more office space? Again, no thanks.
Sean Tully March 16, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Damien, I think Chuck was directing his comment to me, although I don't know why. I think the Gibbons property is in a different boat than Spring Grove. Any development at Gibbons (other than public housing) would benefit the area. I think development at Spring Grove would be wasting a wonderful open space.
Sean Tully March 16, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I agree with Lorna. A new police station with ball fields, etc. surrounding it.
Kate March 16, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I walk through/bike through Spring Grove pretty often. Just last week there were teams playing on the baseball field, which is a wonderful venue. it should be put to use. The natural landscape seating is awesome. I would hate to see houses built on the space, but would hope maybe open space, and very limited shops, like what was asked to see on Frederick Road. A Trader Joes would never fit on Frederick, but maybe it could go to Spring Grove. It's beautiful land, so something as big as the Promenade doesn't seem right, but something on a much smaller scale wouldn't be horrible.
Jim Himel March 16, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The Spring Grove Arboretum is a concept that the Catonsville Community Foundation and the Catonsville Recreation & Parks Council have been working on over the past decade. In November 2011, the concept design was submitted to the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks for inclusion in their Master Plan process. The Arboretum concept design envisions 50-75 acres of existing forests, stream buffers, and open fields for the Arboretum and 5 multipurpose recreation areas. Most importantly, this open space design concept works with (instead of fighting) ALL of the State, County and private development options that are also on the table for Spring Grove. I am sure that everyone will be able to track the Arboretum progress in future Patch articles, or If you would like to be included in an Arboretum email list, send me a note at: jhhimel@hotmail.com. If you would like to support the Arboretum effort with a tax deductible donation, go to: www.catonsville.org/heritage and "Donate Now"
VicksieDo March 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I'd like to see some project that incorporates Catonsville's musical theme, another outdoor music venue like Merriweather Post maybe...
Chuck March 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
The point I'm trying to make is this : Both the Cardinal Gibbons and Spring Grove projects will have an impact on the surounding area. Choose wisely.
OpenEyes March 16, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I just finished reading the complete MEDCO report. It acknowledges that " The State of Maryland assigns to a County an average goal of 30 acres of parkland per 1,000 citizens. The Baltimore County Department of Recreation & Parks estimated in 2001 that the Catonsville area had a theoretical deficit of parkland, with 21.7 acres of parkland per 1,000 citizens." According to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, areas comprising district one Catonsville, Security, Arbutus/Lansdowne saw 1344 new residental units being built between 1998-2007. Let's take half that amount 667, the 250 residential units associated with mixed use development at Spring Grove shown on page 26 of the MEDCO report, assume no residential development since 2007 except the 80 condos of Patapsco Overlook, along with the two new assisted living PUDs, the YMCA's 140 Units & English Consul's 72 Units and that gives us approx. 1209 units. With a conservative 2 people/unit that means 2418 new people to our area requiring approx. 60 acres of open space. The paltry 31 acres arranged in different parcels one containing a landfill (no doubt filled with toxic waste) and the other a cemetery...GEE THANKS... seems like a slap in the face. All the while we have the Catonsville 2020 committee calling for increased density, mixed use development planned around the terminus of RT. 70 near the red line, and who knows what else. New hospital at Spring Grove? Yes! Lost potential open space? NO Thanks!
K Q Bankert March 17, 2012 at 04:58 PM
What about the residents of the facility? Where will they be housed, just put them on the street for treatment? What about the organizations and activities that are now exist on the property? The Free State Theatre Organ Society has a 99 yr rental agreement with the State for a 'cottage'.. They refurbished and maintain the inside of it & the theatre pipe organ that they installed in Rice Auditorium. They produce concerts for the residents of Spring Grove & the public on selected Sunday afternoons.. Rice Auditorium is the home of a theatrical group. There are several buildings being used for a mens homeless shelter in the winter. How about the Cafe in the Grove? Good food at reasonable prices. Theses are just a few of the groups that are in 'residence' on the property. Are we going to run them off so Whalen & other developers can tear down history to make the almighty buck? The main hospital building needs to be refurbished & maintained as a part of Catosnville's and Amercia's history. I'm in favor of getting a larger updated police station and court house in a single building, athletic fields, gardens, walking trails, picnic areas. There's enough land to that without disturbing what is already on the property. Commercial development is not needed. There the empty strip malls in Catonsvlville and Ellicott City area. Refurbish those, fill them with businesses and leave Spring Grove untouched by greedy developers.
Debbie Hebbeler March 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM
My family has lived in Catonsville for almost 58 years. I was raised here. Spring Grove has ALWAYS been part of this community one way or another. We are very fortunate to have a lot of history at Spring Grove. Why isn't the historical society stepping in and stopping any further talks of construction and destruction of these beautiful historical buildings? Instead of cleaning the slate, why not incorporate those buildings into some of the ideas that are being presented and preserve our heritage? I would rather see that happening than modernizing that land. Why are we so quick to erase our history for something that we are unsure of in today's economy? I think it is time for our local government to embrace what the citizens want instead of what makes money in the pockets of the developers. Perhaps if the county government would renovate and rejuvenate the property with leases, our property taxes would go down.
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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