Redevelopment aid cleared for Esskay site

Warehouse, distribution center planned on property

February 10, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved spending $250,000 yesterday to help redevelop the long-dormant Esskay Quality Meats Co. processing plant at 3800 E. Baltimore St.

The $150,000 loan and $100,000 grant to Maryland Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO) will cover demolition and planning costs at the site, targeted for a possible warehouse and distribution center.

The 13-acre property has been vacant for 10 years, attracting vagrants and vandals. In January last year, fire destroyed a warehouse at the former plant, which was the city's dominant meatpacking plant and slaughterhouse from the 1920s through the 1960s.

News that plans were under way to redevelop the sprawling site delighted neighbors, who have been living with the uncertain future of one of the neighborhood's dominant structures.

"That's good news, I'm excited," said Nick Vaccaro, who operates the Vaccaro Italian Pastry Shop Inc. plant down the street at 3705 E. Baltimore St. "Now that they're going to do something with it, maybe it will increase surrounding property values."

Smithfield Companies Inc. closed the plant in 1992 after buying it for $1.8 million six years earlier. Smithfield has agreed to convey the 13-acre site to a nonprofit entity. MEDCO will lease the property to ECCF Properties Inc., which plans to develop a 320,000-square-foot industrial warehouse and distribution center that would create 125 new jobs.

The state Department of Business and Economic Development has agreed to provide a $1.6 million loan to MEDCO for acquisition and site preparation. The department will also provide a $300,000 Brownfields Revitalization Incentive Program Loan to cover part of the redevelopment costs.

State officials lauded the latest plans, noting that in addition to creating new jobs, any redevelopment will likely generate increased property taxes for the city.

"By making this investment, we are putting the property back into productive use," said Bob Brennan, the department's assistant secretary for finance projects.

In other action, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt questioned city housing officials about spending $350,000 to hire Metroventures/USA Inc. to acquire, condemn and develop properties for the Flag House Redevelopment in the Jonestown Urban Renewal Area. Pratt complained that work under the six-month contract began before it was approved yesterday by the Board of Estimates.

City Real Estate Officer Anthony J. Ambridge told the five-member spending board that city workers could do that type of redevelopment work for less than one-tenth the cost of a private business. He estimated that the city could have saved $1 million if it had begun acquiring properties two years ago instead of paying private companies to do the work.

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