A new name for GM site

Broening birthplace of Monte Carlos and Astros now home to the Chesapeake Commerce Center

April 20, 2007|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

For 71 years, the auto plant on Broening Highway churned out Monte Carlos and El Caminos and, later, Safari and Astro vans.

But neither the Chevy nor the General Motors brands, nor any of their models will live on in the name of the new East Baltimore industrial park slated to replace the demolished van plant.

Instead, its developers, who solicited help from the community in renaming the site, have settled on "Chesapeake Commerce Center," a nod to the purpose and geographical identity of the new park.

The name, announced yesterday amid a shower of confetti at the Bricklayers Union Hall in Dundalk more than a month after the start of a naming contest, ended up being a hybrid of nearly 200 names submitted by community members.

Duke Realty Corp., which said it wanted to acknowledge the neighborhood ties to a site that employed area residents for decades before closing in 2005, wanted a name that captured the "unique history and heritage of the Broening Highway site."

As it turned out, that did not mean incorporating "GM," "Chevy" or "Astro," which are trademarked, said John H. Macsherry Jr., vice president of development and leasing for Duke.

The name suggestions ranged from the lengthy: Chesapeake Harbor International Business and Industrial Park, and Chesapeake Distribution Facility, Baltimore Division, to the confusing: The Plant at Can-Dalk, (a reference to the Canton and Dundalk neighborhoods) to those with GM references: "Astro Commerce Center."

"We had names that if you were local, you'd understand it to some degree, but that would have to have a paragraph to go along to explain what the name meant," Macsherry said. "Then, we had names that might have some trademark violation, that represented other companies."

By combining the best of the suggestions, Duke officials said, they've come up with a winning combination.

"We wanted to come up with a name that would speak to our corporate clients and decision-makers in a manner that would reflect the park's capability for warehousing and distribution," Macsherry said. "We also wanted a name that would identify the area's geographical location."

Or as Duke Senior Vice President H. Andrew Kelton said after a large white sign bearing the new name was unwrapped, "It's time to stop calling it the former GM site and take the next step."

For the developers, who envision building a total of 3 million square feet of office, office/warehouse or distribution centers over the next five to seven years, that means breaking ground by early summer on the first two buildings. Those facilities include a 342,500-square-foot distribution center with loading docks on both sides and a 117,500-square-foot office warehouse.

During yesterday's ceremony, Duke presented a $1,500 check to Southeastern Neighborhoods Development for its outreach programs, to thank the umbrella community group for getting the word out about the naming contest.

Elaine Welkie, chair of SEND, said many in the community had approached her to say they had sent in a name. But most refused to tell her their ideas.

"They were afraid someone else would take their idea," Welkie said. "Everyone was really proud about what they submitted."

Welkie said she had expected that the name would have more of a local flavor, but thought Duke's strategy of appealing to customers on a national level made sense.

"I think it's good as a national name," she said. "It's got enough of a flavor that people know it's a Baltimore location. We're looking forward to new jobs in the area."


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