Study on sites for new Pax River office space continues -- Gazette.Net


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Private work continues to determine which sites at Patuxent River Naval Air Station could accommodate new office space for its workers.

The Navy selected Hines Interests of Houston earlier this year to develop a business and leasing plan. Hines will build the offices on federal property and rent the buildings to the Navy under what is called an enhanced-use lease.

There simply isn’t enough physical space on the base for its workers, and some of them are working in buildings that date back to World War II.

Hines Interests is evaluating seven sites within the confines of the Navy base that total 42 acres.

Once Hines Interests finishes its assessment of the sites, a proposal will be made to Naval Facilities Command, said St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R). Hines Interest recently updated the county commissioners in a private meeting.

Hines Interests and the Naval Facilities Command would negotiate an agreement from there.

“The biggest thing they’re going to have to go through is the environmental assessment, and the environmental assessment’s going to take some time,” Morgan said. Hines Interests is using its own money for the site assessments.

There is office space available and used outside the Navy base’s fences, and some in the local business community have objected to the enhanced-use lease arrangement building office space on the base.

“I understand the local concern, the loss of tenants and space,” said Steve Anderson, the new director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development. The enhanced-use lease is a new model for federal government operations.

Anderson has worked with forms of enhanced-use leases before in St. Louis. “They’re really tough to critique or address until you have any of the details,” he said.

What remains to be seen are the size of the proposed work space and the impact of the relocation of workers on and around Pax River.

At this point, “I don’t see it as being anything horribly adverse,” he said.

“It’s a wait-and-see game,” Morgan, who works for a defense contractor, said. “I don’t expect anything imminent.”

Once there is a negotiated agreement, the environmental assessments have to be completed, complying with state and federal laws.

Hines Interests has developed more than 258 million square feet of space on more than 800 properties. “This is no little company by any stretch of the imagination,” Morgan said.

The county’s department of economic and community development is currently assembling an inventory of available office, industrial and commercial space to establish how much St. Mary’s has right now, Anderson said.

Some of the seven sites being considered at Pax River are undeveloped, while others are.

A 7-acre lot on Cuddihy Road near the intersection of Tate Road is currently used as a storage lot for boats and trailers. A 5-acre lot nearby has two baseball fields.

A 9-acre lot currently has a youth center, swimming pool and some administrative buildings. A 3-acre lot on the southeast corner of Buse Road and Cuddihy Road is now empty after housing was demolished there.

There is also a 10-acre lot across from the NAVAIR headquarters that used to be home to Pax River’s hospital.

The final two lots total almost 8 acres are unused, and are close to Gate 1 and the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.

jbabcock@somdnews.com