Urban farm coming to former Sparrows Point steel mill site in Baltimore County

A former Baltimore County steel mill is going green, as a New York-based urban farming operation looks to transform a portion of Sparrows Point into a large greenhouse.

Gotham Greens is opening a 100,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse at Tradepoint Atlantic, the massive redevelopment project planned for Sparrows Point, according to a news release.

Using recycled water and renewable energy sources, the climate-controlled facility will grow produce for restaurants, grocers and other food services throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Baltimore County will become the third market for Gotham Greens, which also has greenhouses in Chicago and New York.

The Sparrows Point urban farm is expected to open early next year and generate 60 full-time jobs. It’s part of Tradepoint Atlantic’s efforts to create 17,000 jobs in the area.

“Urban agriculture, at its core, is about reconnecting with the community through food, jobs and economic development,” Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, said in a statement. “To that end, we’ve found a great partner and are proud to be part of the American industrial turnaround story taking place at Tradepoint Atlantic.”

Under Tradepoint Atlantic, the former steel mill site aims to become a hub for shipping, manufacturing and distribution. A joint venture of the local investment firm Redwood Capital Investments and Chicago-based Hilco bought the property in 2014. Since then, FedEx, Under Armour and Pasha Automotive have moved in to Sparrows Point. Amazon is also building* a distribution warehouse there.

The county has been focused on developing the site for distribution and retail, but Gotham Greens will add diversity to the site, said Will Anderson, Baltimore County’s director of economic and workforce development.

”Something this creative and adaptive in really difficult industrial development is just one more piece in a diverse set of solutions,” Anderson said. “These products that are going to come out of land that was once a challenge for us are now ending up at AmazonFresh and Whole Foods and Target.”

Anderson said the hydroponic greenhouse will build on Baltimore County’s tech strength.

“It’s kind of a home run on a number of different levels that would be unexpected at a former [Bethlehem] Steel site,” he said.

The Sparrows Point steel mill, once owned by Bethlehem Steel, closed in 2012, and its facilities have fallen into disrepair. Tradepoint Atlantic recently received $20 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to upgrade the property. The project will include upgrades to the site’s port, such as dredging to allow larger ships to use Tradepoint’s berths. The $20 million grant will only cover a portion of the work at the 3,100-acre property; Tradepoint will foot the bill for an additional $30 million.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this story.

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A previous version of this story misidentified the city where Gotham Greens is headquartered. The company is based in New York. The Sun regrets the error. A previous version of this article incorrectly referenced the status of Amazon’s distribution facility at Tradepoint Atlantic. Amazon’s fulfillment center is currently under construction at the site. The Sun regrets the error.
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