Middle River tract up for bid

Site near Martin Airport where WWII bombers were built could get homes, offices, shops

May 09, 2006|By LORRAINE MIRABELLA | LORRAINE MIRABELLA,SUN REPORTER

A 50-acre industrial swath of Middle River that could be transformed into a mix of housing, shops and offices centered on mass transit will be offered for sale in an online auction by the federal government next month.

The site, near Martin State Airport at Eastern Boulevard and the soon-to-be-extended Route 43, contains a historic 1.9 million-square-foot plant where World War II bombers and seaplanes were manufactured. It is now owned and used for storage by the U.S. General Services Administration.

Baltimore County officials view the Middle River Federal Depot, newly dubbed "Middle River Station," as a prime parcel in the continuing revitalization of the eastern portion of the county, where new homes and stores are sprouting and work on a 1,000-acre business park is under way.

The park, Crossroads@95, is expected to employ 10,000 workers. More than 5,000 single-family homes, townhouses and affordable rental and senior housing units are either under construction or proposed throughout eastern Baltimore County, according to county economic development officials.

Officials envision a redevelopment - one of the largest ever for the county - where people could live or work and commute via the nearby MARC train, which serves both the Baltimore-Washington Corridor and Harford County.

Both areas are expected to add thousands of jobs over the next six years as a result of the Defense Department's base realignment and closure process.

"In the middle of this heavily growing area is this depot," David S. Iannucci, Baltimore County's economic development director, said yesterday.

"We think a developer with vision and creativity can remake this structure ... at a prime location for a mix of housing, retail and business uses that could be fit in there," he said.

Iannucci said the popularity of waterfront has boosted home construction in the eastern county, and that retailers are following.

The county has not set goals for the number of housing units or amount of office or retail space in the new development, he said. But, he suggested, a developer might decide to make use of the historic structure, demolish some of the non-historic buildings and then build houses and retail on the site.

The property will go on the market for active bidding June 28, a GSA spokeswoman said yesterday, with minimum bids set at $10 million. The bidding activity will determine when the auction closes, but the agency is looking to sell the property this year, said Mary Anne Beatty, the spokeswoman.

Dozens of local, regional and national developers have toured the plant in preparation for the auction.

Beatty said inquiries have poured in from brokers, developers and investors in 17 states, Washington and Hong Kong.

"This is really an impact site because of the amount of acreage, and because of that, a developer can take it in any direction he wants to because he has the critical mass to do that," said Jim Caronna, a principal with NAI KLNB Inc., a commercial real estate firm in Towson.

"For the first time in my career, there appears to be development after development in east Baltimore County, and we never really had this before," Caronna said.

The sprawling two-story building was built in the 1942 as an aircraft plant for Martin Aircraft Manufacturing. It was designed by industrial architect Albert Kahn, who also designed Ford Motor Co.'s River Rouge auto plant in Detroit.

The Martin plant is on the Maryland Historical Trust's Inventory of Historic Properties and eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Under an agreement with Maryland Historical Trust and the GSA, a developer would need to preserve about 1.2 million square feet - over a 600,000-square-foot footprint, of the historic portion of the plant.

Developers would also have access to county, state and federal historic tax credits.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.