Bobby Zirkin: Stevenson, Rosewood Sale Slated For Completion Wednesday

Sen. Bobby Zirkin (Photo by David Stuck)

The long-awaited sale of a large swath of land at the former Rosewood Center in Owings Mills to Stevenson University is expected to occur at Wednesday’s Maryland Board of Public Works meeting, Sen. Bobby Zirkin told the JT.

As part of the deal, which the JT first reported in April, the Baltimore County university will buy 117 of the 178 acres at the former state-owned psychiatric institution for mentally disabled people. In addition, Stevenson will also receive three state-sponsored bond loans from the state in the form of $16 million to aid in remediation — or environmental cleanup — efforts of the site.

The Board of Public Works, a three-member panel made up by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic Comptroller Peter A. Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, has the final approval role over most large state contracts.

Zirkin (D-District 11), who represents the Rosewood area, has been working behind the scenes for years to pave the way for Stevenson to take over the Rosewood campus. He said Hogan, former longtime Stevenson president Kevin J. Manning and Senate capital budget subcommittee chair Ed DeGrange (D-District 32) “have been instrumental” in making this plan come to fruition.

“You can’t snap your fingers and get rid of a $60 million environmental problem, which is what this is,” said Zirkin, who added his “big ask” in this year’s General Assembly was to secure funding for Stevenson. “But this is finally happening. It’s an incredible thing for the community, just incredible. This is just the first step, and it’s going to be a transformative project. What a huge victory.”

The Rosewood site is owned by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but the loans have been recommended by the Department of General Services. The first bond would total $5 million for this year, according to a state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene capital budget request. Two other recommended pre-authorized loans in 2018 and 2019 would also be granted to Stevenson as it advances with the project.

The transfer of the deed for the property would be contingent on Stevenson, formerly known as Villa Julie College, passing a Maryland Department of the Environment inspection by Oct. 18, 2019. Stevenson would then acquire the deed for $1 and pledge at least $20 million to finance capital improvements, educational enhancements and other initiatives for the Rosewood site within 15 years of receiving the deed.

The expansion comes at a time when Stevenson, which still operates its first campus on Greenspring Valley Road, has experienced massive growth. Enrollment, for instance, has doubled in the past 15 years to approximately 4,100 students, Stevenson’s vice president of marketing and digital communications, John Buettner, told the JT in an email.

Tentative draft plans for the Rosewood site call for athletic fields and academic and administrative facilities to complement Stevenson’s Owings Mills campus, which opened just west of Rosewood in 2004. Zirkin noted the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC would also have access to part of the property.

Buettner declined to offer specifics on the sale and said that the university will issue a formal statement with more details after the Board of Public Works vote.

Rosewood, founded in 1888 as an “asylum and training school for the feeble-minded,” has remained vacant since closing its doors in 2009.

While the Board of Public Works approved the transfer of the land to Stevenson in January 2010, a myriad of environmental issues and questions over who would address them financially have nixed any development from taking place. A $100,000 state-funded study through Baltimore-based Arc Environmental the previous summer found that the grounds and buildings on the site contained asbestos, lead, PCBs and concentration of toxic chemicals from ash dumping and leaking oil tanks.

To get Rosewood in a more suitable position for Stevenson to make the purchase, the General Assembly authorized $700,000 to begin the cleanup of the land starting late last year.

By next year, the state will have spent more than $18.5 million in part to monitor crime and vandalism incidents that have plagued the site since its closure.

Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Annapolis.

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