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Former fort has first commercial tenant

August 13, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

CASCADE

The former Fort Ritchie Army base will get its first commercial tenant by the end of this month and a new community center by next summer, officials from the property's development company said Monday.

Columbia, Md.-based developer Corporate Office Properties Trust hired Callas Contractors Inc. last week to renovate and expand the former base's gymnasium into a 22,000 square-foot community center, said Chuck Fiala, senior vice president of government services for COPT.

The center will include a basketball court, meeting and multi-purpose rooms and other facilities, Fiala said. The gymnasium's original wood floor will be left intact and will be used for the basketball court.

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"This is our first building to be renovated on the property, and we're happy that it's one that will benefit not only the Fort Ritchie community but residents of Washington, Frederick, Adams and Franklin counties as well," Fiala said.

The contract will be finalized this week and is estimated to cost $4 million to $5 million. Work is scheduled to begin in late September and finish in May or June 2008, Fiala said.

COPT also signed a lease with the property's first commercial tenant last week.

Indus Corp., a Vienna, Va.-based software development company, will open an office on the property at the end of this month.

The company signed a three-year lease for a 5,000 square-foot building it will use for office space, said Rob Blumenthal, spokesman for Indus Corp.

Blumenthal said he did not know how many employees would work in the office.

Fiala said COPT plans to renovate about 64 of the 68 historic buildings on the former Army base. He said the work will take 10 to 15 years to complete.

A master concept plan COPT unveiled last month divides the property into restricted, residential, preserved woodland and historical/commercial areas. The plan includes 673 residential units, 244 acres of preserved woodland and 1.7 million square feet of office, commercial and retail space.

The Army shut down Fort Ritchie in 1998 as part of its Base Realignment and Closure plan.

In October 2006, the Army transferred 591 acres at Fort Ritchie to PenMar Development Corp., which was created in 1997 by the state to develop the former base. PenMar then sold the land to Corporate Office Properties Trust.

PenMar is awaiting the transfer of the final 91 acres from the Army, said Rich Rook, executive director of PenMar Development Corp.

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