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Developer eyes Fort Ritchie

April 10, 2004|By TARA REILLY

CASCADE - The president of a Baltimore organization says he is offering the PenMar Development Corp. a $500,000 deposit if it selects his group to become the master developer of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.

PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said Friday he has not received such an offer from the organization, Strategic Alliance Group Inc. (SAG).

"I have not heard that," Rook said. "I don't know of any offer that's been made."

SAG President Andrew Klopman said Friday that the money would be a "good faith" deposit demonstrating that his organization is serious about becoming the lead developer of the approximately 630-acre base.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

Rook said in an interview with The Herald-Mail last month that PenMar would meet with SAG, but that North Bethesda, Md., developer Lerner Enterprises was PenMar's "main interest."

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"He's been an obstacle," Klopman said. "But I've told Rich that we're prepared to give him a $500,000 deposit."

Rook said PenMar is treating SAG as it would any potential developer.

"Certainly, we've been very straightforward and honest with SAG, as we would with any group that comes in and talks with us," Rook said.

Rook said he had a discussion with Klopman during which that amount was mentioned, but an offer wasn't made by SAG.

Rook said he told Klopman that a developer that recently became the master developer of the former Bainbridge U.S. Naval Training Base in Port Deposit, Md., had given the Bainbridge Development Corp. $500,000 as seed money.

During the discussion, somebody said that SAG was capable of writing a check for that amount, Rook said.

"I certainly never took that as an offer," Rook said. "He hasn't even met with our board of directors yet."

"It's never formally been presented to the board," said Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell, who is a PenMar board member.

Klopman said SAG hopes to meet with the PenMar board in May.

"Right now, we're prepared to cut a deal with PenMar, and take on the entire redevelopment and present them with a check for a half a million dollars," he said.

SAG submitted a plan to PenMar in January designed to create 3,674 jobs at Fort Ritchie.

If PenMar were to receive a deposit from a developer, Wivell said that money would be put toward redevelopment costs.

Wivell said that in addition to Lerner and SAG, a third developer has expressed interest in taking charge of redeveloping the base.

He said that developer does not want its name released to the public.

"My vision ... is basically PenMar brings the land to the table and the developer brings their expertise," Wivell said.

Klopman said SAG is a team of professionals, some of whom have had experience in redeveloping military bases.

In addition to creating thousands of jobs, SAG's plan calls for building a technology park, education and training center and health-care facilities.

"It's really not about subdividing the property," Klopman said. "It's about economic development, returning jobs, growth ..."

SAG's plan states a 10,000-square-foot solar energy factory would be built, with a possible expansion to 20,000 square feet; high-tech, high-paying jobs; a $7.7 million, 120-bed skilled nursing facility; veterans affairs education and training and women's issues education and training.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy also would offer training programs focusing on refugees of religious persecution and senior citizens, according to the plan.

"Hopefully, they'll take us seriously," Klopman said of PenMar. "I couldn't understand why we wouldn't be awarded the contract."

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