Ship repair yard is sold

Boston partnership closes on purchase of shipyard

New tennants are on the way

Sparrows Point facility set to have multiple uses

March 06, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

A Boston partnership officially closed yesterday on its purchase of the defunct Sparrows Point shipyard in southeast Baltimore County and expects to begin moving in a variety of tenants next month.

Barletta Willis Investments, a partnership between Vincent Barletta, the president of a Boston heavy construction firm, the Barletta Co., and Boston venture capitalist Robert Willis, paid $11.9 million for the 250-acre shipyard, including about 1 million square feet of buildings, and equipment, Willis said yesterday.

Willis said the partnership has a number of letters of intent from potential tenants, a mix of local and out-of-town firms. They will provide traditional services such as ship repair and barge building and some related businesses such as metal fabrication.

Barletta Willis also plans to operate some of its own subsidiaries on the property, including financial services companies, training facilities and possibly an incubator for small shipyard-related companies.

"We have tenants lined up," said Willis. "One thing I think happens on a large property is it gets underutilized and that's why it ends up in financial grief. We bought the property at auction in November, and we've really been working since then to get the whole combo platter of tenants queued up."

Bethlehem Steel Corp. operated the shipyard at its peak. More recently, it was run by Baltimore Marine Industries Inc., which sought Chapter 11 protection last summer. The shipyard was sold at a liquidation auction ordered by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Baltimore Marine focused much of its work on the defense industry. The company shut down at the end of October, though most work stopped in June when the remaining 200 workers were laid off.

The new owner says 1,500 people could be working on the site in the next three years. About 8,000 worked at the yard during its peak in World War II.

Local and state officials, who Willis said have been providing assistance in lining up potential tenants, have cheered the ambitious plans to bring the shipyard back to life.

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