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Institute buys land at fort

October 15, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The International Masonry Institute has purchased about 26 acres at the former Fort Ritchie Army base so it can expand its masonry job training program and add two new buildings, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The Annapolis-based institute will invest about $7.5 million into the project, Communications Director Hazel Bradford said.

The expansion is expected to create at least 200 new jobs in the area, some with the institute and some for companies that serve the institute such as caterers, Bradford said.

The institute plans to build a 39,000-square-foot building that will include a dormitory, a dining area and a conference center, she said.

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It also plans to build a 19,000-square-foot building that will include a design studio, classrooms and administration facilities, she said.

Construction is to start this summer.

The expansion will result in both more students and more staff, she said.

The Fort Ritchie program currently trains "several hundred" students each year, she said.

The program may also include an education center in which classes would be offered for the design and building professions, she said.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has given the company a $1.5 million loan for the expansion project, Bradford said. If the company meets the terms of the loan, by investing $7.5 million and creating 200 jobs, the loans will be interest-free, she said.

The institute has been leasing property from PenMar Development Corp. since 1997, PenMar officials said. The institute currently leases seven buildings from PenMar, six of which are in the 26 acres sold Monday, PenMar officials said.

The PenMar Board of Directors Monday approved the contract between PenMar and the institute to buy the property. The amount of the contract was not released.

PenMar was created by the Maryland General Assembly to redevelop the former base for business when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998.

The Army still owns the 638-acre former base but has agreed to let the institute purchase the 26 acres through PenMar, Wilson said.

"To have them under a contract, as opposed to just a tenant, that is great," PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said Monday.

The International Masonry Institute is funded by a labor-management trust of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers and the contractors who employ them.

It is the only national organization providing skilled training in all the masonry trades, Bradford said.

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