Revelopment of mill project to begin 'right away'

Financing is in place for the redevelopment of the old Mount Vernon Mill in Hampden as a $43 million complex of apartments, condominiums, offices and restaurants overlooking the Jones Falls, the developer said.

David Tufaro's company, Terra Nova Ventures, closed last week on three of the four buildings that will make up the 250,000-square-foot "Mill No. 1" project, located at 2980-3000 Falls Road. Tufaro expects to close on the fourth building in about a month, his daughter, Jennifer Tufaro confirmed.

David Tufaro, of Roland Park, told the Messenger last month that he was close to closing on the three properties — known as the Picker building, the Mill No. 1 building and the Concrete building. The fourth building is known as the Storehouse building. All four are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Construction is expected to begin "right away," starting with the removal of lead paint and asbestos, and the 42,000 square feet of office space are expected to be ready for leasing in about 13 months, Jennifer Tufaro said.

The offices will be marketed to environmental groups, in keeping with the location of the project near the Jones Falls, and at least one office tenant is expected to be a stream restoration company, Jennifer Tufaro said. Thornhill Properties is handling the leasing, she said.

Several potential office tenants and at least one restaurant have signed letters of intent, the Tufaros said. They would not identify the businesses. The restaurant has one location in Fells Point and plans to open a second location in the 4,500-square-foot Picker Building, Jennifer Tufaro said.

Another restaurant is envisioned in a 3,850-square-foot former boiler house on the site.

David Tufaro gave the Messenger a tour of the dilapidated buildings last year, but was still awaiting financing and was applying for state and federal historic tax credits. Now, he has financing, including from Bank of America, and has received federal tax credits, his daughter said. State historic tax credits for this year have not yet been announced.

The city has also designated the 10-acres site as part of an expanded "enterprise zone," eligible for new market tax credits that encourage redevelopment in distressed U.S. Census tracts.

The new market credits, in addition to historic tax credits, would generate 45 percent of the total financing, officials of the city's economic development arm, the Baltimore Development Corp., said last year.

The complex will be marketed as "Mill No. 1," a reference to the main building's name when the grounds were a mill complex. Baltimore City approved zoning for the project in 2009.

The 10-acre site will include 93 market-rate apartments, seven condominiums in the Storehouse building marketed to area artists as "work/live" studio spaces, two restaurants (one upscale, the other at a lower price point) and a 160-space parking garage, the Tufaros said.

Once a cotton mill in 1847, Mount Vernon Mill was rebuilt in 1873 after a fire, and in its heyday was one of the world's major suppliers of cotton duck and cloth for making knapsacks, uniforms, tents and parachutes during the Civil War and both world wars. It was used in the past 30 years by Life-Like Products and its parent company, Kramer Brothers, to make model trains and hobbies, industrial packing materials and Styrofoam products, like ice chests.

Now, the site sits mostly empty in a flood plain on a secluded, one-third-mile stretch of Falls Road at the corner of Chestnut Avenue, near the Stone Hill and Brick Hill communities, the Mill Centre and the Stieff Silver building in Wyman Park. The Picker and Storehouse buildings are used as artist studios; the other buildings are vacant. The Picker building has also been home to a metal shop — and a ramp for skateboarders.

The site also includes a shipping dock attached to the Mill No. 1 main building and a pedestrian bridge between the Concrete building and the main building. There's a courtyard, too.

David Tufaro said last year he would redevelop three of of the four buildings in accordance with historic preservation guidelines. He said he can't seek historic tax credits for the Storehouse building because he must add windows on the Falls Road side of the building to make it liveable and to meet city building codes. But adding windows would violate strict federal standards for receiving historic tax credits, he said.

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