City receives three bids for old brewery campus

Proposals include a social services center, UTECH headquarters


News From Around The Baltimore Region

July 17, 2005|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

East Baltimore's vacant American Brewery campus could become the headquarters of a Maryland nonprofit social services provider or be restored as a beer-making facility targeting the Hispanic market under two proposals received by the city for the property.

A third proposal by a Baltimore-based underground utility company offers to turn a bottling plant on the 2-acre city-owned site in the 1700 block of N. Gay St. into the company's headquarters. But the company said it is not interested in the 19th-century brewhouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Two months ago, the city issued a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the site, which has been vacant since the early 1970s and is in one of the most blighted areas of Baltimore. The deadline for responses was last week.

"Given the level of interest, we were hoping for more proposals," said Ted Laster, real estate supervisor with the city's housing department. But he added, "It's a big project, it's a complicated project."

Laster said the department would set up a review panel and schedule a community meeting to present the plans. An award of a six-month exclusive negotiating privilege for the property could be made as early as September, assuming that at least one of the offers is deemed acceptable, he said.

The most extensive proposal was made by the American Brewery LLC, a partnership of well-known Baltimore developer Streuver Bros., Eccles & Rouse; minority builder Gotham Development; and Humanim Inc.

According to the proposal, the towering red-brick brewhouse building would be renovated into offices for Columbia-based Humanim, which provides vocational, mental health and other services to children and adults with developmental disabilities. The proposal said the nonprofit would relocate 250 staffers to the brewery site and hire an additional 60 workers.

The proposal said that nearly half the anticipated $17 million cost of the project would come from state and federal historic tax credits and that Humanim would be responsible for raising $4 million to $5 million, including $1.6 million in state money already approved. The developer said it wanted to pay $1 for the property.

Streuver Bros. has redeveloped several vacant commercial properties around the city, including Tide Point in Locust Point and The American Can Co. in Canton, and it was involved in a failed attempt to redevelop the American Brewery site in the 1990s. The company was also the general contractor for a senior citizens housing complex that opened in 2003 at the site of the former brewmaster's house across North Gay Street from the brewery campus.

New York-based Oakmar Resources & Associates proposed a $10 million plan to "restore the brewery back to its operating levels" and said by the end of its first year of operation it anticipated producing 160,000 bottles of beer a month targeted to the Hispanic market in the United States. It promises to partner with an African brewery based in Sierra Leone.

The proposal described Oakmar as a real estate financing and development firm founded in 1997, and said it would provide information on its development experience later. Andrew Schwab, an attorney listed as a contact, described Oakmar as a "minority-controlled company" whose principals had "considerable development experience" but said he was not authorized to be more specific.

UTECH, the Baltimore-based firm that lays cable infrastructure and site utilities, said it was interested "solely in the former bottling plant." It said it would spend $1.5 million to turn the building into its corporate headquarters, including the purchase price of $265,266.

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