Fort Ritchie nears end

U.S. Army will soon transfer final 91.4 acres to PenMar

U.S. Army will soon transfer final 91.4 acres to PenMar

April 24, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CASCADE - The U.S. Army soon will surrender the final piece of its former base at Fort Ritchie to the PenMar Development Corp. and complete the complex redevelopment puzzle that began in 1995.

With the last Finding of Suitability to Transfer report nearly completed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook said it is only a matter of time before the last 91.4 acres is cleared for development and conveyed to PenMar.

"We anticipate the land to transfer by the end of the month, but it could take an additional 30 or 60 days," he said.

Once the land is transferred to PenMar, it will be immediately handed over to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) for development.


Since purchasing the land from PenMar in October 2006, COPT has demolished dozens of buildings.

Rook said the Army has licensed COPT to start demolition on the last few acres in an effort to prepare the final parcel for transfer.

Rook said the Army intended to convey the property in phases, but litigation delayed the initial transfer.

According to court records, Jim Lemon and Robin Biser filed suit in 2005 in federal court against the Army, PenMar and COPT to block the transfer of the base and avert "environmental damage and loss of valuable historic buildings that (they) contend will occur if the planned development of the base land proceeds."

The 91.4 acres still owned by the Army are spread across the base and include the old enlisted soldiers housing and building 700, commonly known as the motor pool.

In the report released for public comment in March, the EPA said the land was previously used for "combat training and more recently used for administrative, housing and recreational purposes."

Among the findings of the study, the EPA noted concern over petroleum release, the presence of "munitions and explosives of concern," asbestos and lead-based paint.

Concluding that "all removal or remedial actions necessary to protect human health and the environment have been taken," the unsigned report recommended the transfer of the final parcel to PenMar.

EPA spokesman David Sternberg said the EPA will consider all public comment on the report before giving the Army the green light to transfer.

While most of the buildings still standing on the mountain at Fort Ritchie will be demolished to make way for the 1.7 million square feet of commercial development and more than 670 residential units, Rook said almost all of the historical buildings will remain.

He said COPT plans to reuse about 400,000 square feet of existing space on the base in its redevelopment plan, including 64 of 68 historic buildings.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: The former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base is being developed into a mixture of commercial and residential property. Plans for the base include adding 1.7 million square feet of commercial space, 850,000 square feet of secure campus and more than 670 residential units.

What's new: The Army soon will transfer the last 91.4 acres of the property to PenMar Development Corp., pending the final approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

What's next: PenMar and Corporate Offices Properties Trust will continue demolition of buildings and will begin work on a $4.4 million community center near the front gate of the former fort.

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