But everything is on hold until the Army transfers the 638 acres to PenMar, a deal that's been delayed by environmental cleanup negotiations.
Unexploded mortar shells and hand grenades, remnants of the Maryland National Guard's pre-1926 use, might be buried on half the property.
The chances of an accident are slim, but the possibility creates a legal liability that redevelopers said they can't ignore.
"We don't want to squander the resources of the residents of Washington County by making a mistake with this property," said Steven G. Hull, chairman of PenMar's board of directors.
Magrath said he and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., have been trying to get the Army to clean up the environmental problem and transfer the land as quickly as possible.
The Army has gotten the message, according to a memo dated Monday by Col. Stephen A. Shambach, chief of the Base Realignment and Closure Office.
"The Army's primary goal is to transfer the property in a timely manner under the most favorable terms possible. A parcel of the Fort Ritchie property must be transferred to the PenMar Development Corporation in November 1999 so construction of a training facility for the International Masonry Institute can begin," the letter says.
George A. Drastal of Cascade, a member of the citizens Restoration Advisory Board, said there are no environmental issues on the 26 acres the masonry institute wants.
"It's a red herring. There are no substantial impediments to conveyance and to bringing tenants in," he said.
James A. LaFleur, PenMar's executive director, said PenMar would like to take the property piecemeal, but the Army hasn't agreed.
PenMar has been able to rent 188 apartments on base and will get $202,728 from the federal government in the coming fiscal year, LaFleur said.
About $2.2 million has been spent on the redevelopment effort since 1996. That doesn't include money the Army has spent on maintenance and security.
Neighboring residents complained that PenMar's board doesn't have any members who live in nearby Cascade.
Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell invited interested residents to sign up so they can be considered by the County Commissioners when vacancies become available.