The Alexander Co. is waist-deep in a massive historic preservation project at the National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, so the developer wants to shovel some of the work to others.
The Madison, Wis.-based company is looking for individuals or developers interested in buying one or more small buildings and renovating them into single-family homes on the grounds of the leafy 32-acre campus near the Forest Glen Metro station.
The buildings were constructed by the proprietors of an elite girls finishing school who were inspired by the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. They functioned as sorority meeting houses for students until World War II when the Army annexed the property to house returning veterans.
Alexander is concentrating its own efforts on transforming some of the former school’s larger structures – a sprawling inn, a chapel, a gymnasium and a firehouse – into condominiums and apartments, says Project Manager Dave Vos.
It would be several years, Vos says, before his team could turn its attention to the small sorority buildings that were designed to look like such things as a Swiss chalet, an Italian villa and a Dutch windmill.
Therefore, Alexander decided to sell off the properties. Prospective buyers have to show that they have a qualified architect, a contractor and the financing to pull off a historic rehab true to the buildings’ history.
That won’t be easy. The military had left the property in shambles by the 1980s.
A group of neighbors sued the Army, alleging demolition by neglect. Although the Army prevailed, it ultimately decided to declare the property surplus. The land was transferred to Montgomery County in the late 1990s.
In 2003, Alexander and its partner EYA, a Bethesda-based developer, beat out about a dozen teams for the right to redevelop the grounds.
Alexander set a June 26 deadline for potential buyers to express their interest. The company has already received numerous unsolicited offers from developers and individuals, some offering to take all 12 properties, Vos says. Alexander expects to select buyers later this summer.
Rehabilitation work will have to adhere to guidelines set by the Maryland Historical Trust. The stringent requirements would preclude buyers from planing a tree or painting their living rooms without first seeking permission.
The Alexander Co. is saving the best of the properties for last. In lieu of a construction trailers, the developer is working out of a three-story Japanese pagoda built in 1904. Once the project is nearly complete, Alexander will likely put the pagoda on the market as well, Vos says.