Historic Warfield is a generational opportunity for economic development, historic preservation, and smart growth for the Town of Sykesville.

Not just your typical development project, Warfield at Historic Sykesville is a generational opportunity to promote economic development, historic preservation, and smart growth in the Town of Sykesville. Such a “win-win-win” situation is rare for a redevelopment project of such magnitude and complexity.

Warfield has the potential to become the single most significant economic development project in the Town of Sykesville’s 119-year history. Recognized in the town’s comprehensive plan as the last remaining growth area within Sykesville’s existing town limits (https://www.townofsykesville.org/DocumentCenter/View/2671/Comprehensive-Plan-2030), a revitalized Warfield will contribute to Sykesville’s long-term prosperity and strengthen the fabric of the local community.

Warfield realizing its full potential means economic development that will directly support downtown merchants and further strengthen Main Street. A revitalized Warfield will also benefit the area by expanding the town’s and county’s tax bases by embracing “smart growth” principles. Further, preserving this valuable historic resource will increase interest in, and add cultural value to, the Town of Sykesville.

Meeting Challenges Head-On

The pursuit of this generational opportunity has come with some challenges. Historic preservation is expensive- much more costly than new construction- and state financial support in revitalizing Warfield was a known necessity from the beginning. The cost to rehabilitate the historic buildings at Warfield is estimated to exceed their finished value by $30 million. The good news is that the State of Maryland stands ready to invest millions alongside the developer in our restoration efforts (and facilitate millions more in federal investment) via the state’s new Catalytic Revitalization Tax Credit, state historic preservation tax credits, grants, and tax-exempt bond financing. Currently, the main barrier to progress at present is local government support for zoning that aligns with market demand and will ensure an economically viable project.

The other good news is that any proposed state investment in the Warfield project is far from a government giveaway. The payback period on the types of state investment proposed at Warfield is approximately five years. In addition, using the Maryland Historic Revitalization Tax Credit as an example, analysis suggests that every dollar of tax credit investment historically results in more than eight dollars of economic activity (according to a study commissioned by the Abel Foundation- https://abell.org/publication/marylands-historic-revitalization-tax-credit-program/).

Studies completed by an independent economist in collaboration with the property owner and the Town of Sykesville estimate the substantial increase in the town’s and county’s tax bases resulting from such additional economic activity. Regarding infrastructure (roads, schools, and utilities) and services (police and emergency services), these studies indicate that Warfield pays for itself and even results in a surplus to the town and county. This surplus could be used by the town and county for additional investment or even to cut taxes.

Enhancing the Town of Sykesville

But this project is about so much more than economic development. Sykesville is a town that values history and the preservation of structures that tell the story of the town’s past. A restored Warfield will benefit the local community by memorializing the property’s original use and its historical relationship between Springfield Hospital and the town. The developer also envisions this development as a pilot project to preserve large-scale historic campuses across Maryland, which would undoubtedly draw positive interest to Sykesville across the state.

Another element we will delve much deeper into in a future post is the introduction of much-needed workforce housing to Carroll County. Warfield aims to provide housing catering to households at all income levels, but the introduction of workforce housing is a crucial element of the project’s success and of what the state intended when it sold the property in 2002. While the area’s median income is around $120,000, the developer envisions a project for Warfield’s existing historic buildings containing housing serving households earning around $72,000 per year for a three-person family. Providing workforce housing will satisfy a long-standing community need while also allowing the developer to access further government funding to preserve Warfield’s historic buildings.

Smart growth strategies, such as developing workforce housing, add value to a community by ensuring that essential workers like teachers, police officers, nurses, and service industry workers can live in the communities that they serve. There is a demonstrated demand for workforce housing in Sykesville and in the surrounding areas of Carroll County and Howard County. Providing workforce housing at Warfield as a part of the overall residential mix will help ensure that the area has the workers necessary for employers to provide critical services to the community while also reducing the number of commuters and easing traffic impacts in the area.

Market Viability and Warfield

All large development projects require capital, which can be challenging to raise under the best of circumstances. First and foremost, developers must demonstrate that a project is economically feasible to attract the interest of banks, equity investors, and government partners, and designing a project for which there is a clear need in the market is core to demonstrating viability. In the case of Warfield, the clear market need is for additional housing at all price points– not the 600,000-square-foot office park that is allowable under the current zoning. Not surprisingly, private and public capital sources are solidly behind a more residentially focused project and ready to launch, even in today’s uncertain market.

Twenty years after the Town of Sykesville purchased Warfield from the State of Maryland and five years after the developer purchased the property from the town, the path forward is clear. We are on the verge of realizing this generational opportunity for economic development, historic preservation, and smart growth for the Town of Sykesville.

To learn more or find out how you can support the Warfield project, please write us at info@historicwarfield.com or call 301-216-3817.