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Economic Conditions Do In Indian Head Tech Park
Bryans Road, MD - 8/15/2012
By Andy Marquis
A three way deal between the Charles County Government, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) and Facchina Group of Companies to build a science and technology park in Bryans Road has collapsed. COPT said economic conditions caused the deal to dissolve.
“Our reasons for terminating the partnership with the county was because of the disintegration of real estate market fundamentals,” Stephanie Krewson, vice president of investor relations with COPT, said. “Ultimately, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) related jobs all three parties thought might relocate there did not materialize.”
“We're following the lead of the majority partner, which is COPT,” Charles McPherson, chief operating officer of the Fachinna Group of Companies said.
The proposal would’ve been to build the technology park in Bryan’s Roads near the Maryland Airport, which sits off MD-224. Supporters feel the plan would’ve brought high paying jobs to the region as well as the necessary support for Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head, which is estimated itself to employ some 3,500 workers.
NSWC Indian Head’s fate lies in the hands of the BRAC Commission. The next round of BRAC is expected sometime around the year 2015.
The plan did face some backlash from the environmental community, which was concerned about hazardous material and impacts the proposed park would have had on the Mattawoman Creek.
“I'm disappointed the deal fell apart,” Town of Indian Head Mayor Dennis Scheessele said. “It was an opportunity to get some good business development on the western part of the county. Campus seven was a good use of that land, better than building a bunch of houses on it which is the only things going in this side of the county. I would rather see high paying jobs come in to the county and businesses that support the base. I'm not sure what impact this will have on any potential BRAC that comes up. We'll have to deal with it as it comes I guess.”
“I never thought the location in the Mattawoman watershed in Bryans Road was viable because of it being too far from the base in Indian Head and the environmental sensitivity of the area,” Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) said. “The growth taking place inside the gates of the Indian Head base including a proposed tech park makes the most sense and placed it in direct competition with what had been planned for Bryans Road.”
Vincent Hungerford, president of the Western Charles Business Association, felt county politics may have played a role in the deal being dissolved.
"Lack of county interest is part of it when you have one commissioner, Ken Robinson, saying it's a bad idea,” Hungerford said. “We had support from Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins (D), Commissioners Bobby Rucci (D: 4th) and Debra Davis (D: 2nd). Ken Robinson didn't like the idea because he felt it was disastrous for the Mattawoman Creek. He knew not what he said. He wants to preserve everything and doesn't want to do a lot about growth.”
“We've always supported this as a concept for strengthening the base and protecting it against future BRACs,” Dennis Chappel, president of the Indian Head Defense Alliance, said. “We've been involved with it. Our company did consulting with Mark Baker when they were looking to locate in the tech park. That fell through because of changing business climate. I am a little disappointed. It makes a lot of sense, 15 miles down the road from all the money in the world and in Western Charles. There will be future BRAC and it's disappointing this is off the table at this time.
“We had the previous commissions support it 100 percent. With the election of new commissioners, there was more doubt amongst the commissioners. Debra Davis certainly supports it; all the folks in Western Charles support it.
“The airport is going to have a new runway this year and that would be a good spot for corporate aircraft to land. It's going to be recognized as a great business opportunity in the future.”
John Reardon was the former director of economic development in the Charles County Government and he also spent a lengthy amount of time working with the Facchina Group of Companies on the project.
“It's unfortunate,” Reardon said. “The park was the first green park in the metro DC area that was designed as a smart growth park with 47 percent of the land dedicated to wildlife area, migration trails and flows. It's what we call a small footprint park. It would've been a real showcase for DC and Charles County. Even more important to that, the Indian Head area has been a depressed area for decades. Young people have to find jobs other places; they don't have good incomes where they're commutable. This was a key piece to bringing employment to them instead of them going to where the employment was. It's disappointing to hear what you're saying.
“The commissioners in the past got this project to attract developers. They already have $5-7 million in hard cash and, including personnel time, around $10-$12 million invested. It was in the agreement that, if the employment on the base went down on certain levels or the commissioners didn't want to pursue it, the developers wouldn't be obligated going forward because it's a $280 million investment. It would've made Charles County the number one environmental management in the DC area. Looking at the lives of people involved, it's unfortunate and sad news.”
Hungerford said he was not surprised the deal was dissolved but he was certainly disappointed.
“I was not surprised because I've heard, talking to Facchina, with the economy the way it is, a lot of people are not going to start new ventures,” Hungerford said. “I can understand someone not wanting to erect a building here. The COPT, Facchina and county had an agreement and COPT made a business decision that there wasn't anything happening and some of the things in 2005 BRAC didn't come to fruition like Martin Baker not coming and other jobs not coming.
“I thought the tech park was great. You're over here in the western area, you've got some space, you're right on 210 and got the base, you're in a stone's throw of the capital. The airport right here, it's got the potential to be an economic engine. With BRAC coming up again in a couple years, we need to have some support for the base outside the base. One of the things for the BRAC is you don't want to have it encroach so having it within five miles was great. I'm disappointed because we were looking to have something here to have some jobs. People don't like to commute to Washington.”
TheBAYNET’s Dick Myers contributed to this report.
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