Software maker pays $850,000 for former Dixie cup plant USL Financials to move to Camden Yards area from Northern Va.

Redevelopment

October 03, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

A turn-of-the-century warehouse that was used for many years to make Dixie cups will become the headquarters for a computer software manufacturer that employs 34 and plans to move to Baltimore from Vienna, Va.

USL Financials, a 6-year-old company, will relocate from Northern Virginia to 1300 Warner St., one block south of the Ravens football stadium at Camden Yards.

The 91,000-square-foot building was sold at auction yesterday for $850,000 to Kostas Alexakis, who is the chief executive officer of USL Financials and also owns the Monument Place apartments near Mount Vernon through an entity called Alpha Development Co. A.J. Billig and Co. was the auctioneer.

Accompanied at the auction by broker Henry McDonald, Alexakis said he plans to invest approximately $1 million more to transform the Warner Street property to a "mixed-use development" with office and parking space for USL and others.

He said this is his first acquisition of property near Camden Yards and that he was attracted by its setting and its potential for reuse. The building has about 45,000 square feet of office space and 45,000 square feet of warehouse space.

"Just look at the location," he said. "It's ideal for access to Baltimore and Washington and the Beltway."

Some Baltimoreans have "a very sad view" of the city, he continued. "They look at it as a backwater town. I look at it as a diamond in the rough."

McDonald, of Water Oak Realty, said he believes the area south of Camden Yards is ripe for redevelopment, because of the attention the two stadiums have received and the crowds they draw. "We think this is a new frontier," he said.

Auctioneer Jack Billig said he thinks the Warner Street building is particularly valuable because it is so close to the football stadium.

"This stadium is getting national recognition," Billig said. "When somebody says, 'Where is your building?' you can say, 'Right outside the entrance to Ravens Stadium.' "

The building was once part of a group of structures owned by the Fort Howard Co., makers of Dixie cups and other paper products. One section dates from around 1900 and another from the 1940s.

Many of Fort Howard's buildings were razed to make way for the Camden Yards sports complex, but the Warner Street building is just outside the 85-acre renewal area controlled by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The Warner Street building has been owned by R & H Properties, headed by Reuben and Hunter Fedderman. It was most recently leased to the construction managers of the football stadium and used to store equipment and supplies, but has been vacant since stadium construction was completed this summer. Immediately before that, it was a furniture warehouse.

The auction was promoted over the past several months by large banners on the side of the building that were visible from the football stadium and Russell Street. The sale drew several dozen people, including prospective developers, brokers and representatives from Baltimore Development Corp. and the surrounding community.

Because the land is part of a federal empowerment zone and a state enterprise zone, the owners can receive tax credits for making certain improvements to the property,and companies can receive tax credits for creating new jobs.

USL makes computer software for cities, counties and nonprofit agencies. Alexakis said he hopes to finish renovating the building and move USL to Baltimore within the next six months. He said USL will occupy about 20,000 square feet of office space and the rest will be available for other tenants.

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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