Study in­di­cates new di­rec­tion for Bain­bridge

His­toric des­ig­na­tion may cause is­sues

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— The col­lec­tion of once-grand ar­chi­tec­tural struc­tures at the Bain­bridge site that made up the Tome School for Boys can­not be de­mol­ished and must be re­stored for any fu­ture de­vel­op­ment to take place, ac­cord­ing to

PORT DE­POSIT

a re­cently re­leased study com­mis­sioned by the Bain­bridge De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

The 54-page strate­gic plan, pre­pared by We­ston Solutions, of West Ch­ester, Pa., sought to as­sess the best use or uses for the Tome School prop­erty and found that while the prop­erty faces sig­nif­i­cant hur­dles, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­na­tion, his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion re­straints and a lack of in­fras­truc­ture, the site is a mar­ket-vi­able project.

Chief among those ob­sta­cles, how­ever, is a rul­ing from the Mary­land His­toric Trust that states the BDC can­not de­mol­ish the for­mer school build­ings.

“Any fu­ture must in­clude all build­ings on the cam­pus be­ing re­stored,” said Michael Pugh, BDC chair, adding those es­ti­mates are as high as $72 mil­lion. “The like­li­hood of restora­tion work at the Tome School is re­mote.”

The study it­self was trig­gered by the Septem­ber 2014 ar­son fire which de­stroyed what was left of Me­mo­rial Hall, the school’s sig­na­ture build­ing, Pugh said. But there is great de­te­ri­o­ra­tion tak­ing place else­where as well, with the His­toric Trust es­ti­mat­ing that around 50 per­cent of the “char­ac­ter-defin­ing fea­tures” of the build­ings have been lost to date, ac­cord­ing to the study.

Wayne Tome, mayor of Port De­posit, was dis­ap­pointed that this degra­da­tion would be al­lowed to con­tinue. The mayor said he has not been able to read the re­port thor­oughly yet, but hopes there is a way to ap­peal the His­toric Trust’s rul­ing.

“They want it all to be done or none of it,” he said of the of­fi­cials with the Mary­land His­toric Trust. “We can’t do it in­cre­men­tally.”

Built as the Tome School for Boys more than a cen­tury ago, it be­came U.S. Navy prop­erty in 1942, a year af­ter the school closed. The grand mar­ble and brass was painted bat­tle­ship col­ors when it be­came Bain­bridge Naval Train­ing Cen­ter. The mil­i­tary base closed in March 1972. Af­ter a suc­ces­sion of Job Corps classes, the prop­erty was turned over to the state of Mary­land in 2000.

At one time there were plans to con­vert the re­main­ing build­ings into a con­tin­u­ing care fa­cil­ity. How­ever, be­fore those plans could be­gin, a study found that con­tam­i­na­tion on the prop­erty — thought to have been re­me­di­ated by the Navy — was still on the site. That brought all plans to a halt.

While he would not di­vulge iden­ti­ties of the com­pa­nies, Pugh said the BDC and Ce­cil County of­fi­cials have had enough of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause of the Navy’s lack of ac­tiv­ity.

“In the last 12 to 18 months, we had two ma­jor in­dus­trial prospects,” Pugh said.

Both were lost be­cause of the con­tam­i­na­tion, but also be­cause of the lack of in­fras­truc­ture at the site. Two weeks ago, the county launched a plan to ad­dress the in­fras­truc­ture is­sue, an­nounc­ing a pro­posal to build a re­gional wa­ter and sewer sys­tem for Bain­bridge, Port De­posit and neigh­bor­ing sub­di­vi­sions.

Ac­cord­ing to Tome, hav­ing the wa­ter and sewer in place will make Bain­bridge “shovel ready” for de­vel­op­ers.

“On be­half of the town of Port De­posit, we ap­pre­ci­ate the county in­clud­ing that in their plans,” Tome said. “Peo­ple are look­ing and ready to go and we’re not.”

The BDC, mean­while, wants to of­fer a boiled down ap­proach to the re- me­di­a­tion of the for­mer naval base. Pugh said this new plan sug­gests that the soil be stud­ied once again, with the worst of it set aside. That leaves the re­main­ing acreage for de­vel­op­ment — and it’s promis­ing.

“We have to know pre­cisely the more and less con­tam­i­nated sites,” Pugh said.

A grid sys­tem will be used to iden­tify ar­eas where town­houses and con­do­mini­ums could be built as well as the po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions for ware­houses, of­fice com­plexes and other projects.

“We want to min­i­mize dis­tur­bance of the worst sites,” Pugh said, adding that while the Navy will still be re­spon­si­ble, the cost would be sub­stan­tially lower.

Once pro­posed for an amuse­ment park, a NASCAR track and even a refugee camp, the be­lea­guered par­cel will have a fu­ture, Pugh said.

“About a year from now, a plan will emerge, which will be close to a fi­nal de­vel­op­ment con­cept plan for Bain­bridge,” he said. “We can find uses (and) help the western end of the county re­gain its foot­ing.”

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Fol­low­ing an ar­son fire in Septem­ber 2014, a charred shell is all that re­mains of Me­mo­rial Hall, the Tome School for Boys’ sig­na­ture build­ing.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Flames en­gulf Me­mo­rial Hall on the Bain­bridge prop­erty dur­ing a Septem­ber 2014 ar­son fire.

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