Canton business park stalled by aid denial

Chesapeake project turns on cleaning up polluted properties

Economic development

January 07, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's plans for a new business park in the Canton industrial area have been placed on hold because the city failed to win a federal grant to transform polluted industrial properties into new commercial and industrial projects.

The city had applied for $3 million in federal Brownfields Economic Development Initiative money. That money, along with $5 million from a separate federal loan program, was to pay for more than half of the initial phase of a proposed 80-acre manufacturing and warehouse center on the site of a former Exxon Corp. distribution center in East Baltimore.

But Baltimore was not among 23 cities and counties selected late last year by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to share in $25 million given to communities planning an array of projects on abandoned and contaminated land.

City economic development officials said this week that they will apply for part of another $25 million in brownfields grants to be made available this year.

"We're confident that we're going to have a successful second-round application," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency.

Andrew B. Frank, a senior development official with the BDC, acknowledged that the city's failure to win a grant would delay creation of the proposed Chesapeake Business Center, which city officials hope will create up to 1,400 jobs in Southeast Baltimore. The area has seen a steady loss of manufacturing jobs.

"The delay would be equal to a delay in obtaining funding," Frank said.

HUD plans to issue a formal notice of the availability of the new funds by spring but it is unclear when the agency will announce the new round of grants, HUD spokeswoman Debbie Pickford said.

Last year, it took about six months from the announcement of available funds in May to announcement of the grant winners in late November.

Among the 23 cities and counties selected last year were:

Chicago, awarded a $2.5 million brownfields grant and an $18 million loan guarantee for industrial development at five sites;

Philadelphia, which got a $2 million brownfields grant and $24.2 million in loan guarantees to redevelop one site into an entertainment center and another into a shopping center;

Los Angeles, which got a $1.7 million grant and a $10.4 million loan guarantee for a business park and retail center.

Baltimore was among 17 jurisdictions that failed to get grants.

City officials were told privately by HUD last month that one deficiency in the city's application was that the city wanted to use too much money from the brownfields grants and too little from HUD's Section 108 loan program. The program provides financing for housing rehabilitation and development projects, which then are typically repaid from proceeds of the project or future HUD community block grants.

Frank said the city would address HUD's concerns in its new application.

In the initial $15 million phase of the project, expected to take two years, the city has proposed to buy the land from Exxon, clean it and build a 230,000-square-foot building on the parcel's easternmost 30 acres. Additional development would cost $42 million, all of it in private money.

In a letter of support for the project that was part of the city's application, Exxon said it would not sell the property to anyone else until after the brownfields grants were announced.

Crawford Bunkley, an Exxon spokesman, said he didn't know if the Houston-based oil giant would extend its agreement, but said the company wasn't soliciting bids for the property.

Pub Date: 1/07/99

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