The Board of Estimates approved a complicated financial deal yesterday to extend Key Highway deeper into Locust Point.
The board unanimously approved the purchase of 2 acres for $1.4 million from Tidewater Yacht Service Center so that Domino Sugar would have a staging place for its trucks when the new road is constructed.
The board also approved a $140,000 loan to Tidewater for moving expenses because the company will be displaced.
The idea of extending Key Highway from where it ends near the Domino Sugar plant, through a rail yard and into the heart of Locust Point has circulated since the 1970s. However, in 1999, with the Tide Point office complex about to take over the old Procter & Gamble Co. soap factory, it took on new urgency.
The extension would bring the two-lane highway to Tide Point, at Nicholson and Hull streets, ideally relieving Locust Point's crowded neighborhood streets from the office complex's hundreds of commuters.
Part of the delay in getting the road approved has been the intricate deal-making necessary to placate businesses in the way of the bulldozer - primarily Domino. The city's development arm, the Baltimore Development Corp., handled the negotiations.
For years, Domino had used the splintered end of Key Highway as a staging area for its trucks. Because the plant would not be able to do that if the road was active, the BDC helped Domino find a new spot - 2 acres next door belonging to Tidewater.
That meant Tidewater needed a new home. So BDC helped arrange a deal for the company to move to the nearby Port Covington shopping center.
The city paid Tidewater $1.4 million for its land. Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, the owner and developer of Tide Point, is helping Tidewater finance its Port Covington property. The city is also lending Tidewater $140,000 for moving costs.
Domino, with 500 employees and a recent $7 million expansion of its facilities, is important to the city and it was imperative that the road extension not harm its business, said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC.
"Domino gets to be more efficient and hopefully we retain them for as long as anyone can see," Brodie said of the deal.
Locust Point Civic Association President Joyce Bauerle said the road is sorely needed and highly anticipated.
"At every meeting, people are asking, `Hear anything on the road? Hear anything on the road?'" Bauerle said. "It's been a long time coming."
Since Tide Point's arrival, Bauerle said, Fort Avenue, Hull Street and even smaller side streets are increasingly congested with workers commuting to and from the office complex. "We really need that road," she said.
Construction on the $13.8 million, quarter-mile stretch of highway is slated to begin this summer, after construction bids go out in June.
Meanwhile, as Locust Point continues to expand, it's not only Tide Point clogging its streets. New apartments and homes are slated for the former industrial community-turned-hot spot, including Silo Point, a grain elevator being turned into luxury condominiums, offices and stores.
Larisa A. Salamacha, BDC's director of economic development-industrial, said the area needs the highway extension more than ever.
"With all the new residential, it's become very clear that there had to be another access road into the community," she said. "It became even more important."