'Enterprise zone' expansion sought in city's southwest Port Covington, Westport and in parts of Cherry Hill

February 22, 1997|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Baltimore will ask the state to renew or add "enterprise zone" status, which gives tax breaks to growing businesses, in parts of the city's southwestern section.

The expanded zone would include Port Covington, Westport and parts of Cherry Hill, all older, economically challenged tracts on the Patapsco River's Middle Branch. Port Covington has been an enterprise zone for almost a decade.

It's time to renew it, and "we said this could be extended and give a boost to Westport and Cherry Hill," said M. Jay Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency. "We think enterprise zones are very useful in terms of direct translation to [a company's] bottom line, and we are trying to look several years down the road" for new ones.

The existing Port Covington zone is 220 acres, said Tracy Shafer, a development officer and enterprise zone administrator for BDC.

The city wants to renew its zone status and add another 170 acres. The precise boundaries are still being drawn, she said.

The Cherry Hill part of the zone would include the Cherry Hill Shopping Center, which Catholic Charities recently bought and plans to renovate.

The Port Covington area includes a large printing plant owned by The Baltimore Sun Co.

Also in Port Covington, restaurant supplier Continental Foods is considering building a 400,000-square-foot warehouse, which would receive substantial tax breaks.

Zone status is granted on the basis of an area's unemployment rate, population loss, income levels and other criteria.

Maryland has more than 25 enterprise zones, in which higher real-estate tax assessments that result from capital investment or other expansion are chopped by 80 percent for five years.

The incentive diminishes after that and disappears after 10 years. Businesses can also get income tax credits for enterprise zone workers.

The administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening favors enterprise zones because they fit with the governor's "smart growth" plan, in which business and residential projects are steered toward previously developed areas.

"The goal is to get companies to look at these existing areas and capitalize on the existing infrastructure," said Darlene Frank, director of communications for the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Pub Date: 2/22/97

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