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Rejection by PenMar has Md. developer crying foul

May 13, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Baltimore group that proposed bringing more than 3,000 jobs to the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base is out of the running to become the property's main developer.

The president of the group lashed out at the PenMar Development Corp.'s executive director.

PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook told Andrew Klopman, president of the Strategic Alliance Group, in a May 10 letter that PenMar had decided to negotiate with another developer.

"After much consideration, the PMDC Board of Directors has elected to enter into exclusive negotiations with a different developer at this time," Rook wrote. "If, for some reason, our current negotiations do not result in a contractual obligation, we might potentially be interested in reopening a dialog with Strategic Alliance Group."

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Klopman said Wednesday that PenMar never told him why it wasn't interested in SAG's plan for economic development at the base.

He said Rook was deceptive with him and failed to give him any information about the base after he became interested in the property.

Rook and PenMar board chairman Ron Sulchek said PenMar rejected SAG's redevelopment plan because it wants a company that had financial backing and experience in developing property the size of the base - approximately 630 acres.

"They just really have never (worked) on a project of this magnitude anywhere else," Rook said.

Klopman also said Rook delayed meetings between him and the PenMar board. His first meeting with the board came this month, five months after he submitted his nearly 100-page economic development plan to Rook, Klopman said.

"He's deceived me. He's lied to me. Everything he's told me has been false," Klopman said.

Rook denied that Klopman received unfair treatment.

"I have treated Mr. Klopman with the same professional courtesy that I would have treated any other client that has come to this property," Rook said.

Sulchek said PenMar did not enter into exclusive negotiations with another developer, as Rook stated in his letter to Klopman.

"I don't think there's any exclusivity at this time," Sulchek said. "I think we're free to talk to anyone."

Rook said his statement meant PenMar agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with a developer, but the agreement has not been signed.

Klopman said last month he would give PenMar a $500,000 deposit if it signed a redevelopment agreement with SAG.

He said SAG would create health, technology and training jobs at the base and bring in large companies, such as the Korean-based Daewoo Corp.

According to SAG's plan, a 10,000-square-foot solar energy factory would be built, with a possible expansion to 20,000 square feet, and provide 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 from religious persecution, and on senior citizens, according to the plan.

Another company, Lerner Enterprises of North Bethesda, Md., had negotiated with PenMar for more than a year about becoming the base's master developer. Lerner put those talks on hold last month after the PenMar board decided to negotiate with other companies.

On Monday, Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia, Md., said it was in "general discussions" with PenMar but declined to offer details of those talks. That company develops and manages suburban office properties.

Klopman said he plans to continue to pursue becoming the base's head developer and hopes to have another meeting with the PenMar board.

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

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