Long-awaited plans to redevelop the Rosewood Center, a former state-owned psychiatric institution that operated until 2009, have started to take shape.
State officials on Wednesday formally agreed to transfer 117 acres of the former Rosewood Center to Stevenson University in Owings Mills, a deal that has been in the works for nearly 17 years.
The Board of Public Works unanimously voted 3-0 to approve the sale of the land to Stevenson for $1. The state will also pledge millions of dollars to help in remediation, or environmental cleanup, of the site.
The board’s three members — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — stressed the importance of successfully brokering a solution that they feel will mutually benefit Stevenson and the state.
“The investment in the students, I’m convinced this is one of the best investments we can make and have made,” Kopp said.
The pact comes at a time when Stevenson has evolved from a predominantly commuter school into the third-largest private, independent university in Maryland serving more than 4,100 students with both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Under the deal, the state will provide $16 million in state bonds over the next three years for the cleanup of a site that has been plagued with numerous environmental and health issues. Multiple studies conducted through the state and independent organizations have revealed high levels of asbestos, lead, PCBs and concentration of toxic chemicals from ash dumping and leaking oil tanks.
Stevenson, formerly known as Villa Julie College, has until Oct., 18, 2019, to clean up the site and pass a Maryland Department of the Environment inspection. After that takes place, the sale will be finalized.
With the additional land, Stevenson will nearly double the size of its current Owings Mills campus situated between Owings Mills Boulevard and Garrison Forest Road, which opened just west of Rosewood in 2004.
Stevenson would be required to use the property for educational purposes for at least 15 years after receiving the deed. The university, which still operates its first campus on Greenspring Valley Road, will commit at least $20 million to capital improvements and other initiatives for the Rosewood site.
Kevin Manning, university president emeritus who pushed to acquire the land after arriving to the school as president in October 2000, said he expects the redevelopment to take about 10 years to finish. He said the project is “the culmination” of his 16-plus-year tenure at Stevenson.
“We’re ready to move,” said Manning, who retired as president of the university last November.
In a prepared statement, Stevenson vice president of marketing and digital communications John Buettner said tentative plans for the site include new educational facilities and recreational resources for students and the community.
State Sen. Bobby Zirkin State (D-District 11), who represents the area in which Rosewood is located, said he has for years worked with state and university officials on the land deal. The negotiations have covered four gubernatorial administrations, dating back to shortly after Zirkin was elected to the House of Delegates in 1998.
Zirkin expressed his thanks to Hogan, Manning and his District 11 colleagues — Dels. Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein and Shelly Hettleman — for making the transaction finally come to fruition.
“This has been a long time coming and has really been the hard work of so many,” Zirkin said. “This is something that is transformative for Northwest Baltimore County. It’s been a complicated deal.”
Rosewood, founded in 1888 as an “asylum and training school for the feeble-minded,” has remained vacant since closing its doors in 2009.
The state has spent more than $17 million to maintain the 178-acre since 2010, when Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration and the Board of Public Works declared the land surplus. The land Stevenson will take over has 17 run-down buildings that are expected to be torn down.
The hospital was home to as many as 3,000 patients at its peak in the mid-1960s, but at the time of its closing, that numbered dipped to 166.
Disability rights advocates advised Stevenson to not forget Rosewood’s history as the university moves forward with its redevelopment plans.
Laura Call, president of ARC of Maryland, said she hopes Stevenson creates a place in its library to honor the history of Rosewood, where generations of developmentally disabled people were reportedly abused and neglected.
“The lives of people who lived and died at Rosewood deserve to be remembered,” Call said.
Ken Capone, director of policy for the advocacy group People on the Go, has cerebral palsy and is stricken to a wheelchair. He implored Stevenson, known for its nursing program, to consider programming aimed at the developmentally disabled.
“The closure of Rosewood was a very important day for people with disabilities,” Capone said with the aid of a computerized voice. “We are glad to see Stevenson University be able to use the land for higher education. … We need more people with disabilities participating in postsecondary education.”
Read the June 23 JT print issue for a cover story on the Rosewood Center.
Here are some photos of Rosewood Center, from the inside!