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History group has concerns with plans for Fort Ritchie

October 03, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - A national preservation organization said a Columbia, Md., developer's plans to revitalize the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base "sacrifices the historic site's key cultural landscape."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation would like to participate in talks dealing with the former fort's development efforts, President Richard Moe wrote in a Sept. 22 letter to PenMar Development Corp. Executive Director Richard Rook.

PenMar plans to sell the approximately 630-acre base to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) for $9 million. The price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over nine years. COPT plans to turn the base into a residential and business center.

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"After visiting Fort Ritchie and reviewing extensive background material provided to us by members of the National Trust, we are very seriously concerned that the redevelopment plan proposed by (COPT) is in clear conflict with the Programmatic Agreement and Design Guidelines that contribute to the redevelopment of historic Fort Ritchie," Moe wrote.

The Programmatic Agreement and Design Guidelines address building and design guidelines for the base.

"The COPT plan fails to conserve the open-space framework of Fort Ritchie, sacrifices the historic site's key cultural landscape, Fort Ritchie's wonderful Parade Field, and proposes the demolition of four contributing historic structures," Moe wrote.

Moe wrote that the base is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

COPT CEO Randall M. Griffin could not be reached for comment Friday.

Griffin said at a recent public hearing that development in historic areas would be done "tastefully."

"You don't have to worry," Griffin said. "We are committed to that."

The Maryland National Guard built the base, called Camp Ritchie, in the 1920s. It was built as an encampment to house the 58th Brigade Headquarters and the 1st and 5th Infantry Regiments, according to the base's 1997 Comprehensive Reuse Plan.

Much of the property is known by the Maryland Historical Trust as the "Camp Ritchie Historic District."

That district includes at least 50 stone buildings, two lakes and approximately 30 acres of open space known as the parade field.

The Army leased the property from the state in 1942 to accommodate 3,000 troops during World War II, the plan states.

Several years later, the base served as a support facility for Site R, the underground Pentagon in nearby Pennsylvania. From the 1970s, the fort took on a bigger role in performing communication and administrative missions for the Army, the 1997 plan states.

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