The city has been waiting for this.
Those abandoned buildings now cluttering South Baltimore's industrial waterfront are winning attention from developers, who are retrofitting the hulking empty warehouses into space for technology companies and other businesses looking for a different kind of office.
The old Procter & Gamble detergent plant, now called Tide Point, is nearly leased. The old Coca-Cola plant should be ready for some tenants by April.
On the water but off the beaten path, the buildings are beginning to alter the somewhat gritty warehouse district that skirts the edges of the residential neighborhoods of Locust Point and Federal Hill.
The interest in the corridor is clear, area real estate brokers said. The city, a South Baltimore landlord, is now ready to act.
The Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, is caretaker to a cluster of four South Baltimore buildings where pancake syrup once was made. The buildings, known as the South Harbor Business Center, have been put on the market.
The city requested proposals recently from developers but hasn't seen all the plans yet for the buildings at 1414 Key Highway, the former Mangels Herold Co. King Syrup plant.
Still, city and area real estate professionals have ideas about who would want to be among the first to move in.
"Tech companies don't mind pioneering; the nature of their companies is pioneering," said Bruce Matthai, who leases space in Tide Point.
The revolution, if there is one, has not been obvious.
Tide Point is accessible only over some railroad tracks and through a residential neighborhood where a major local pastime is decidedly low tech: sitting on the rowhouse stoop.
Its immediate neighbors remain industrial, including the Domino Sugar plant. But Matthai said there are benefits to the corridor, including water views and quick access to Interstate 95. With most of the buildings, tenants could get free parking and a large floor plate so they don't have to spread over several levels - two amenities difficult to find in the central business district.
There are high ceilings, big windows and, at Tide Point, commitments for 85 percent of the space. The parking at the city's buildings is leased for the time being.
Penny Lewandowski, head of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, said the appeal of old warehouses is strong in the tech community, and companies are waiting for more space to come online. "Tech companies aren't looking for traditional space," she said. "They're looking for space that's kind of different because they're kind of different. No one here cares about the traditional corner office."
Transforming the buildings, however, isn't easy or quick. Richard Manekin, a principal at Manekin Bros. Abeshouse LLC, which is leasing the Coca-Cola building, said the buildings need pricey upgrades and hook-ups for modern computer equipment. And not all buildings can be reused as offices.
"You can't renovate these buildings in a week," he said.
With construction still under way, the Coca-Cola building is attracting one or two companies a week for a look, Manekin said.
Manekin and others say the city's buildings will surely be considered for tech space as more companies are drawn to the area.
Office rents per foot are in the low $20s, less than downtown offices but more than area industrial buildings, so the spaces are appealing to tenants who can afford them and developers who can make money off them, said Terri Harrington, a senior associate at Miller Corporate Real Estate, who has brokered space in the corridor.
Tide Point showed the finances and the appeal would work, she said. "Options haven't been there," she said. "I don't think people thought of it as a destination. ... Tide Point really opened people's eyes."
M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., which is handling the city buildings' sale, said he's not sure what will become of them, although tech office space is a possibility.
The property is zoned for industrial but with several other approved uses. The buildings sit among the Museum of Industry and the Visionary Art Museum, the residential tower of HarborView, some traditional industrial plants and established neighborhoods.
There's a Ritz-Carlton hotel planned and townhouses under construction nearby.
Another city-owned building in the corridor, an old whiskey warehouse, was recently awarded to the Visionary Art Museum.
The city has made only minor improvements to their buildings in the 15 years it's controlled them, Brodie said. The city wants a developer to come up with something compatible with the neighborhoods - and pay taxes.
One of the city's small-business incubators that inhabits the bulk of the space will be relocated.
"We were waiting, frankly, until there would be lots of interest," he said. "Their potential as tech offices are quite real."
Lois Mark, a senior development officer handling the developer proposals for the city, said the deadline is Dec. 20 and the property isn't likely to be awarded before March.
As for the buildings' future:
"Trends have to start with something," she said. "Tide Point is a significant something."