When Jim Robey was the County Executive he envisioned creating a new county office complex on 24 acres of land at the intersection of Rogers Avenue and US Route 40. The County purchased the property in 2000 for $3.7 million.
The county put out a bid proposal to the development community. The competition was whittled down to Trammell Crow Company and our own hometown national developer, Corporate Properties Office Trust (COPT). COPT won. I should note here that development proposals of this scale are rather extensive and expensive. The developer enlists architects, lawyers, engineers and other consultants to help them prepare a vision for the project. These costs can easily exceed $100,000.
Now the county has changed it’s mind, or at least the current administration has. The county has now decided to renovate the existing county complex and purchase a floor of space in the proposed Meridian Square development. They have decided to sell the Rogers Avenue property to fund these plans. COPT and its hard won right to develop the project for the county is left holding the bag so to speak. True, while this can just be racked up to the cost of doing business, it still hurts.
It’s a shame. This property sits at one of the major gateways into historic Ellicott City. A government complex here would have had a significant impact on transforming that portion of Route 40. Right now it is a collection of strip shopping, auto dealers, fast food and a porn shop. Talk about an area that could use some revitalization!
Hopefully someone with vision will snap this up. Perhaps COPT will go ahead and take a shot at it.
Maybe we will.
The county paid a little over $150,000 per acre eight years ago. Right now the going rate for prime office land (think Columbia Gateway) is around $600,000.00 per acre. The major difference being that the land in Gateway is ready to go. It is cleared and rough graded. When you buy 24 acres, you get 24 acres. The land on Rogers Avenue is heavily wooded. The euphemism that is commonly used is raw. The purchaser won’t get to use all 24 acres. They’ll get somewhere between 15 and 20 acres to build on if they are lucky.
Still, it will probably fetch a pretty nice number and the county will likely end up with a fair return on their investment in Ellicott City real estate.