CAMBRIDGE - On Jan. 13, Cambridge Waterfront Development Inc. acquired the former Dorchester General Hospital property, including the 17.2 acres of land, the decommissioned hospital and three medical office buildings. The land encompasses nearly half of the CWDI’s eventual development area.
“This has been in the works for a long time,” says Frank Narr, CWDI’s secretary/treasurer. “Once we learned that University of Maryland planned to build a new free-standing medical facility on Route 50 and leave the waterfront, CWDI immediately began its efforts to regain local control of the property.”
In the next few months, and after the county and state Departments of Health finish using the site for COVID testing, the two primary hospital buildings will be demolished.
“Hospitals are designed and constructed for a very specific use,” CWDI’s recently appointed Executive Director Matt Leonard said. “It just isn’t possible to renovate them to a significantly different purpose, especially purposes that align with the future development of this site.”
The two medical office buildings on Byrn Street will be retained, with one becoming CWDI’s new office location. “Being on-site is the best way for CWDI to manage, develop and market the site.”
Possible development on the site includes hospitality, food and beverage, mixed-use commercial/retail and residential.
“We’ll have a better handle on the best uses once we receive final public comment,” says Jeff Powell, CWDI’s vice president. “But without question, a significant portion of the site will be dedicated to public access and enjoyment near and along the waterfront.”
Current concept plans include such public amenities as a promenade with walking and biking trails; greenspace for recreation, events and entertainment; continued unrestricted access for the boat ramp; and a beach for swimming.
CWDI is also working with its property neighbors and local businesses to coordinate its plans and vision. Early in its development process, CWDI will dedicate resources to improve the public use areas so that the residents of Cambridge and Dorchester County can enjoy this most important community asset. CWDI will also focus on the public infrastructure (streets, utilities, sidewalks) to make the site most attractive to the investors and developers needed to build out the rest of the project.
“We fully intend to honor the public aspect of our mission, respect the heritage uses of the waterfront, and attract new partners to make the Cambridge waterfront a world class space for our citizens, business partners and visitors,” adds Rich Zeidman, CWDI’s president. “Acquiring the hospital property is a giant step forward in our mission.”
Leonard takes over
On the same day as the announcement about the DGH property, the CWDI Board of Directors released the news that Mr. Leonard was taking over as executive director of the organization, which is working to plan, promote and facilitate the redevelopment of the Choptank River waterfront site.
Leonard, a development professional, has significant experience in economic development, property development, community development, and organizational development. Leonard moved to Cambridge with his wife two years ago “for the very reasons that are embodied in the CWDI mission,” which he describes as reshaping the waterfront site to reflect “the inviting, accessible, active and enjoyable” place they found in Cambridge, adding “I’m pleased and excited to have found some small way to help the community we have chosen as our forever home.”
At the same time, Cambridge is saying good-bye to Sandra Tripp-Jones, who served as the executive director of CWDI during its formation and critical first years of activity. CWDI Board President Richard Zeidman said that the leadership of CWDI “can’t thank Sandra enough for her efforts over the last three years.”
Tripp-Jones stepped into the position shortly after leaving her service to the City of Cambridge as city manager. “It’s been my pleasure,” says Tripp-Jones of her time with CWDI. “This is the fourth time I’ve retired,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe this time it will stick.”
She plans to spend more time with her husband and family.
CWDI plans to issue a Request for Proposals in the next 60 days to identify developers whose development ideas match CWDI’s vision for the site. That vision has been informed by decades of input from the public and many other stakeholder groups. CWDI will share the current Master Site Plan next month for a 30-day public input period. A separate announcement will be made with details of when and how this will occur.
At the Jan. 6 meeting of the CWDI Board of Directors, Secretary Kenneth Holt of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development welcomed Executive Director Leonard and thanked outgoing director Tripp-Jones.
Secretary Holt said, “The revitalization of the Cambridge waterfront serves as a prime example of progress through local, state and private partnerships. I want to personally thank Sandra Tripp-Jones for so effectively supporting the CWDI Board in its effort to develop this key property. The State of Maryland has made a significant commitment to CWDI, the City of Cambridge and Dorchester County to showcase this beautiful waterfront site.”