City to reduce loan in exchange for Port Liberty development

Seller to get break of $300,000

new owner to clean up site, renovate

February 03, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Hoping to revitalize the mostly vacant Port Liberty industrial area, the Board of Estimates agreed yesterday to give the site owner a $300,000 break on a city loan in a deal that could bring 175 jobs to Baltimore.

Site owner Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse plans to sell 18.5 acres of the industrial park in Fairfield for $2.7 million to Hobelmann Port Services of Britain, which has agreed to clean up environmental problems on the property and renovate buildings, piers and the shoreline.

The site, in the 1900 block of Frankfurst Ave., has sat nearly vacant for more than a decade because of the recession in the early 1990s and because of lead contamination in the soil that stems from a ship operation there during World War II.

Environmental concerns have hindered development of the site, which is expected to cost more than $2 million to clean up.

The city has agreed to forgive $300,000 of the $1.261 million mortgage that Struever Bros. owes it under Urban Development Action Grants awarded in 1989 and 1990.

Economic development officials said the city will recoup the $300,000 from tax revenue the project will generate, which is expected to be $98,000 a year.

"The bottom line is the cost to the city is paid back," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp. "We think this is a tremendous step forward for Fairfield."

As part of the project, Hobelmann Port Services, which operates in Baltimore under the name Associated British Ports Holdings, will move its U.S. headquarters from the World Trade Center to a historic wood-frame building at Port Liberty, which will be renovated. The company also plans to renovate a brick building on the Port Liberty property for office space.

About 50 jobs are expected to be created in Hobelmann's move.

"It's going to be gorgeous," Joshua Neiman, director of business development for Struever Bros., said of the renovated buildings.

In addition, Caldwell Cable, a fiber-optic cable operation in Connecticut, plans to lease 5 acres at Port Liberty to relocate its international headquarters in Baltimore. The company plans to bring 125 employees to the new facility, including 75 in ship-based professional, engineering and technical jobs.

"I think this is a wonderful economic development project," said City Council President Sheila Dixon, chairwoman of the estimates board.

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