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PenMar group sets meeting on negotiations

June 26, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - The PenMar Development Corp. will hold a special meeting Tuesday morning to discuss negotiations with a company interested in taking charge of development at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.

The meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m. at Lakeside Hall at the former base, PenMar Board of Directors Chairman Ron Sulchek said Friday.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the approximately 630-acre base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

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PenMar currently is negotiating with Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) of Columbia, Md., about having that firm spearhead redevelopment efforts.

Mary Ellen Fowler, COPT's vice president of finance and investor relations, refused to comment this week on COPT's interest in the former base.

"We actually aren't commenting on any story ..." she said.

When asked why, Fowler hung up.

PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook did not return two phone calls this week on the issue.

Sulchek said he could not reveal the details of Tuesday's meeting or what COPT has in mind for the former base because the PenMar board still is in negotiations with the company.

COPT is one of at least three companies that PenMar has spoken with about taking charge of the former base.

Lerner Enterprises Inc. of North Bethesda, Md., had negotiated with PenMar for more than a year, but talks broke down in April.

Lerner put the discussions on hold after the PenMar board voted to negotiate with other companies. That decision by PenMar contradicted a decision it made in February to stick with Lerner.

"The Boards believe that Lerner has all the qualifications that we would look for in a Master Developer," Rook said in a written statement in February. "We compared their history of success in other projects to what needs to be done here at Fort Ritchie and came to the conclusion that they are a world-class organization with the fire power to get the job done."

PenMar has not publicly stated why it lost interest in Lerner.

In May, the PenMar board rejected a bid by a Baltimore group to redevelop the base, saying PenMar had entered into exclusive negotiations with another company.

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