State's plans advancing to buy Ward's property

September 08, 1994|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,Sun Staff Writer

The state is expected to clear one of the last hurdles in its effort to purchase a portion of the former Montgomery Ward & Co. Inc. complex in Southwest Baltimore today when the city's Planning Commission votes on a final plan for the property.

The state intends to acquire industrial space at the Carroll Park site from the Chicago-based retailer for $5 million later this month as part of an effort to retain two local firms employing about 650 manufacturing workers.

PTP Industries Inc., a packager, and Medo Manufacturing Corp., which makes air fresheners, had considered relocating their operations out of state prior to the state's involvement with the Montgomery Ward project.

"We felt it was important to keep these companies in close proximity to where a great many of their employees are," said Hans F. Mayer, executive director of the Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO), the state agency buying the property.

After the state's purchase, PTP and Medo are expected to sign a lease with the state for the 635,780 square feet of industrial space through the year 2009.

Under terms of the transaction, MEDCO and the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development agency, will provide roughly $3 million in loan guarantees and funds to renovate the 30-year-old industrial property.

"We hope to be operational there in some respect by the end of the year, but at this point we're still in the process, which we hope to consummate soon," said William Hartley, PTP's president.

PTP and Medo, jointly owned by Mr. Hartley and several others, plan to both manufacture and distribute products from the Carroll Park complex.

The Planning Commission's action is necessary to comply with the purchase agreement between the company and the state, (( Mr. Mayer said.

Once approved, the industrial space would be separated from an adjacent eight-story office tower also owned by Montgomery Ward on the 55-acre property at 2100 Washington Blvd.

"The subdivision will accommodate PTP and Medo, now and through anticipated growth," said Susan Williams, manager of the commission's current planning department.

"This is an exciting project since it's so job-intensive," she said.

She added that the city's Planning Department will recommend approval of the plan.

If completed, the PTP and Medo retention would represent a major economic development victory for the state, bruised of late by the planned defections of Procter & Gamble Co., London Fog Corp., Esskay Corp., as well as by Starbucks Corp.'s decision to locate a new $25 million plant in Pennsylvania.

"We're pleased to be able to help traditional industry, and it's critical to keep this type of employer in the city," Mr. Mayer said.

The Carroll Park complex, completed in 1925, had served as Montgomery Ward's East Coast catalog operation and as a flagship department store.

The retailer closed the complex in 1985 after catalog sales generated a $75 million loss the year before.

The $6 billion company will retain the 1.2 million-square-foot office tower at the site, as well as parking and 10.5 acres of undeveloped land for future use.

Montgomery Ward officials familiar with the state's plan could not be reached for comment.

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