Developer Has Elaborate Plans for Former Fort Ritchie

Sixteen new office buildings, two shopping centers and about 600 homes could be built at the former Fort Ritchie under plans outlined by the developer negotiating a purchase of the former Army base.

About 1.7 million square feet of office space could be added to the approximately 600-acre mountaintop site in northern Washington County, creating up to 5,000 jobs, said Randall M. Griffin, president of Corporate Office Properties Trust.

Griffin presented the redevelopment plan Monday night to about 200 local residents at a meeting on the Ritchie property in Cascade, about 60 miles north of Washington.

He said the office tenants probably would included defense contractors or intelligence agencies. A bank also has expressed interest in having a data center there, Griffin said.

COPT, based in Columbia, is a publicly traded real-estate investment trust that derives about 45 percent of its revenue from leases with the defense sector and the intelligence community.

COPT signed an agreement in July with PenMar Development Corp., the local redevelopment authority, to buy the former Army base for $9 million. The price, could drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs in the next nine years.

The agreement gives either party until Oct. 24 to cancel the deal.

The land would be open to the public, except for a 57-acre "restricted area" where 11 office buildings could sit, Griffin said.

He said the plan was a "work in progress," requiring approval from PenMar's board of directors.

PenMar was created in 1997 by the General Assembly to redevelop Fort Ritchie, which was shut down in 1998.

COPT plans for 673 dwelling units, including 92 duplexes currently in use. There also would be 325 apartments, 166 town houses and 90 single-family homes, according to the plan.

"It's important for the overall benefit of the community that there be a balanced mix of residential," Mr. Griffin said. "We want people to be able to live and work in the same community."

The plans also designates 257 acres of forest for preservation.

COPT estimates spending about $16.9 million to upgrade the property, including demolition of some existing buildings, road construction and utility improvements.

Sixty-four of the property's 68 historic buildings would be spared from demolition, according to Griffin and Peter Garver, COPT's director of development services. Those could become retail shops and office buildings, they said.

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