National Labor College tries to move on from failed church deal

The National Labor College’s 47-acre White Oak campus has been on the market for years, but it is attracting greater interest from the private sector following the cancellation of a sale to a partnership between Reid Temple and the Housing Opportunities Commission.

A spokesman for the college said 34 groups have inquired about the property since the sale fell through and many have toured it as well.

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County officials have taken an interest in providing better access and infrastructure around the campus, making a mixed-use project more viable.

“Since re-listing, 34 different entities have signed non-disclosure agreements with us which allow them to review documents and materials pertaining to the property. We have already given tours of the property to many of those entities and have more tours scheduled,” said college spokeswoman Lara L. Manzione in an e-mail.

Reid Temple is still eyeing the campus and trying to determine how best to proceed. “We are evaluating all the options. I can’t say anything more than that,” said Rev. Loxley O’Connor, the church’s director of business and financial affairs.

If the church makes another run at the campus it will do so without HOC, Montgomery County’s quasi-public affordable housing agency.

On Tuesday the agency’s executive director, Stacy L. Spann, confirmed that it had pulled out of the deal to buy the property after pressure from members of the county council, including Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) and Nancy Floreen (D-At Large).

Spann said he had moved to acquire the campus in part because it would assist in overhauling the dated 96-unit Holly Hall apartments nearby, which HOC owns and manages.

“The thought was that that was a good location and for us it’s always about our affordable housing mission,” Spann said. Leaders from HOC, Reid Temple and the college began meeting regularly on the property to discuss the zoning and programming. They planned a mixed-use project with a new church, housing and other amenities.

HOC pulled out weeks before the end of June, when the deal was expected to closed. Spann said conversations with the council led HOC to withdraw its interest. “We’ve clearly had conversations with council members and they’ve decided that it wasn’t best to move forward,” he said.

Spann said council members play a role in overseeing the agency’s operations and financial support, so their input carried important weight. Floreen chairs a key committee for HOC funding. “The county is a partner of ours and we rely on support from them and it’s not just financial support,” Spann said.

Some members of the council — as well as many residents — would prefer the property to be used for a mixed-use development that would provide more amenities and jobs than a mega-church project might.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

 
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