Old GM plant turns into piles of rubble

Demolition at Broening Highway nears finish after year of work

April 10, 2007|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

Nearly a year after crews starting tearing down the General Motors van plant in East Baltimore, most of the demolition has been completed, with the bulk of the old plant expected to be recycled and cleared away in time for two new buildings to get under way by midsummer.

Duke Realty Corp., which bought the shuttered plant in January last year and plans to build a huge industrial park, has been recycling about 96 percent of the 3 million-square-foot former plant, or about 98,000 tons of concrete, asphalt and metal. The recycled concrete, being crushed on site, is being used as fill material while the metals are being sold as a commodity and shipped by truck or rail across the U.S., said John H. Macsherry Jr., vice president of development and leasing for Duke Realty. The site should be cleared of the recycled materials within two months.

The developer hopes to start the first two buildings of the new park by June or July and have them ready for tenants by the end of the year or early next year, Macsherry said. They include a 342,500-square-foot distribution center with loading docks on both sides and a 117,500-square-foot office warehouse.

The distribution center would allow truck traffic to come in on one side with containers from the port or rail, materials to be unloaded and materials to be shipped out via truck on the opposite loading docks.

"We are talking to several companies who are looking at the project," Macsherry said. "We are not in the lease development stage yet, but we are currently negotiating with a couple of firms."

He said interest has come from distributors or other warehouse users looking for access to Interstates 95 and 895 as well as access to the port of Baltimore. He said he hopes to have tenants committed or moved in to the sites when they open, by early next year.

Robert McGlotten, assistant secretary for business development in the state Department of Business and Economic Development and a new appointee in Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration, said he met with Macsherry about a month ago to hear details of the industrial park. The park could help attract new business to the state as well as convincing existing companies with greater space requirements to stay in the state, he said.

"It's an exciting plan," McGlotten said. "We plan to work with them to identify potential users for a large industrial site like this and to aggressively begin to market Baltimore City and this site in particular as an ideal site for companies looking for manufacturing, distribution or flexible office space."

Developers plan to build a total of 3 million square feet of office, office/warehouse or distribution centers over the next five to seven years, which could potentially mean 11 new buildings, Macsherry said.

The number of workers employed at the park will depend on the types of tenants, he said. In the past, state officials have estimated that the park could employ about 3,000 workers.

Duke Realty also is in the process of renaming the site, which produced cars and vans for 70 years and employed generations of workers, with more than 7,000 employees at its peak. General Motors closed the plant in May 2005.

After asking community members and groups to suggest a new name, and getting some 200 responses, Duke plans to unveil the park's name at a ceremony April 19.

"Everyone in that community has a lot of history with this site," said Macsherry. "It has meant a lot to them."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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