Construction of the Port Covington Business Park entered a new phase yesterday when workers began a $5.5 million reconstruction of Cromwell Street, the gateway and main artery of the $500 million waterfront development in South Baltimore.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new road with representatives of CSX Realty Inc., the lead developer, and Locke Insulators and The Baltimore Sun Co., the first two users in the 135-acre business park.
CSX Realty used the occasion to unveil its latest rendering for the park, showing where it envisions construction of close to 2 million square feet of Class A office space, a 450-room hotel and conference center, shops, restaurants, health club and 800-slip marina over the next 10 years.
Under a master plan by Wallace, Roberts and Todd of Philadelphia, Cromwell Street will be extended more than 4,000 feet from Hanover Street to McComas Street and will be widened from two lanes to four lanes by late 1991 to become the main spine of the business park.
"With this project getting under way, Port Covington takes another major step forward," Mayor Schmoke said. "When Cromwell Street is completed in 1991, we will have improved access for The Baltimore Sun and Locke Insulators, as well as enabling developers to begin development on the rest of the site."
A subsidiary of NGK of Nagoya, Japan, Locke Insulators manufactures porcelain insulators and em ploys 500 people. It is building a new warehouse distribution facility next to its existing plant.
The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Co. subsidiary that publishes The Sun and The Evening Sun, is nearing completion of a $165 million complex that includes a 375,000-square-foot printing, packaging and distribution facility and a 47,000-square-foot office building on a 60-acre parcel.
The printing facility, called Sun Park, is being constructed to supplement the current printing plant at 501 N. Calvert St. It will be fully operational, with 500 employees, by early 1991.
Initially, it will house three Goss Colorliner presses that will give the newspaper maximum flexibility to print high-speed, high-quality color throughout its pages. The building can accommodate up to four presses, and the size of the site gives the company room to expand it to contain up to eight presses if production levels warrant it.
"That probably is the biggest single investment made in a plant in the city of Baltimore," said Baltimore Sun Chairman Reg Murphy. "It demonstrates our interest in and continued support of the city."
The plant was designed by Columbia Design Collective primarily to print the Baltimore newspapers, but has the capability to print other publications as well.
Among the other possible uses would be printing Sunday supplement sections for other newspapers or an East Coast edition of the Los Angeles Times, another newspaper in the Times Mirror chain and one of the nation's largest-circulation newspapers. The Times is currently printed in California and flown to the East Coast for distribution.
Mr. Murphy acknowledged that the Baltimore Sun's Port Covington plant will have the capability to print supplements and other publications but said it has no contracts to do so at this time.
Michael Davies, who recently was named publisher of The Baltimore Sun newspapers, said any decisions about the use of Port Covington to print editions the Los Angeles Times would have to come from Times Mirror.
Mr. Davies added that the first priority for the new plant would be to take care of the printing needs of the Baltimore newspapers.
Suzanne Hovdey, director of corporate communications for Times Mirror, said the company has not announced any plans to use the Port Covington facility to print the Los Angeles Times but didn't rule out that the idea may be under discussion at some level.
Port Covington has been designated a city "enterprise zone," and about 6,000 people are expected to work there by 2000.
CSX Realty President Richard Beadles said he has no new company relocations or expansions to announce but that his firm is putting together a marketing team for the nearly 70 acres it controls at Port Covington and plans to launch its sales and leasing effort this fall.
Representatives from at least one of Baltimore's largest full-service brokerages, W.C. Pinkard & Co., attended yesterday's event.
Mr. Beadles said he could not yet say who will handle the leasing effort at Port Covington but that CSX will have "a major hand in it ourselves" since it is such a complex project.
CSX still has about 12 to 15 months of site work to complete before Port Covington is ready for construction of more buildings, Mr. Beadles said, adding, "We have a lot more work to be done before we're in a position to put people in here."
The $5.5 million road contract was awarded to P. Flanigan & Son and involves upgrading Cromwell Street to a curving, landscaped boulevard.
The work is being financed as part of a $36 million commitment from the city of Baltimore to help complete Port Covington. Other funds have been used for land acquisition, company relocations and infrastructure improvements.