Commission to Study Old Pikesville Armory
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By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun, 9/5/17
State officials have launched a study to consider what to do with a historic National Guard armory in Pikesville that the military no longer needs.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday the formation of a committee to study future uses of the 14-acre property on Reisterstown Road.
Howard Needle, president of 1000 Friends of Pikesville, said his group is eager to participate in the commission. The group has been working on ways to revitalize Pikesville and has high hopes for the armory property.
“We were delighted out of our minds that the governor is now interested in it,” said Needle, a former state delegate and retired attorney.
The 1000 Friends group has floated ideas such as using horse stalls-turned-garages on the property for art studios and moving Pikesville’s library and senior centers to buildings on the site.
“It has the potential for being a fabulous multi-use facility for the community,” Needle said.
A spokeswoman for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the county approached the state last fall about the county taking over the property, but got no response.
“We were not given any advance notice of the governor’s announcement today by press release, but obviously will incorporate any information that his group develops into the county’s comprehensive report which is scheduled to be released this spring,” spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said in a statement.
The facility was built in 1903, back when horses were still used to cart artillery on the battlefield, said Col. Charles Kohler, a spokesman for the Maryland National Guard.
The main armory building originally had a dirt floor and was even used for polo matches. Famed Army Gen. George S. Patton is believed to have attended matches there.
Over the years, it’s been home to a variety of Army National Guard units, Kohler said. Guard soldiers mobilized from the Pikesville armory have served from World War I to post-9/11, Kohler said.
But the building has become too outdated and cumbersome for the National Guard to use, he said.
“The age of the facility and the cost to maintain it made it prohibitive for us to keep it in our inventory,” Kohler said.
Units located there have been moved elsewhere, and for the past year or so the National Guard has maintained the grounds while the state weighs its future.
The armory is on the National Register of Historic Places, which limits how much development can alter the buildings on the site.
State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who was named by Hogan to chair the commission, said the armory property should be used in a way that benefits the community. He’s intrigued by ideas for an arts facility and also thinks ballfields should be considered.
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The commission will weigh who should own the property, what should be done with it and who will pay for renovations.
“This should be a place for the community,” said Zirkin, a Democrat. “This should not just be some development. Pikesville has tremendous community needs that are unmet, particularly in the area of recreation.”
Zirkin said that over the next couple of weeks, he will work with Hogan’s office to name remaining members of the commission. Hogan’s executive order creating the commission names certain community groups that will have representatives on the commission, including the 1000 Friends of Pikesville group.
Zirkin said he hopes to convene the first meeting in October. The commission’s report is due to the governor on Oct. 1, 2018.