Tradepoint Atlantic acquires Sparrows Point shipyard for $33.5 million

Tradepoint Atlantic has purchased the former Sparrows Point shipyard, giving it control of more of the east Baltimore County industrial peninsula it is redeveloping into a distribution hub, the development firm announced Monday.

The deal adds 150 acres and more deepwater berths to the 3,100 acres Tradepoint acquired there in 2014. Tradepoint paid $33.5 million at the end of April for the shipyard, according to state property records,

Tradepoint has been working to put the giant former steel mill property back to productive use, demolishing buildings and making way for warehouses that serve companies such as Amazon, FedEx and Under Armour.

The shipyard property will provide Tradepoint with additional port capacity and more warehouse space to fuel its planned maritime operations.

Kerry Doyle, Tradepoint’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement the move allows the company to further its redevelopment plans for the area.

“This enables us to move forward with the next phase of our project — modernizing infrastructure and enhancing connectivity throughout the industrial complex to attract additional world-class tenants that will create jobs,” he said.

In March, Tradepoint announced it would get a $20 million federal grant to help pay for upgrades to its port facilities, including rebuilding bulkheads and dredging the channels leading to the peninsula to allow larger ships to use its berths. Tradepoint planned to match the money.

Will Anderson, director of Baltimore County’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development, said county officials are pleased to have the entire parcel under Tradepoint’s ownership.

“From the county perspective, this is really a tremendous development, ”Anderson said.

The shipyard parcel, on the western shore, gives the operation another berth, and “really unlocks the rest of the peninsula,” he said.

Anderson said county officials had been meeting regularly with Tradepoint and the shipyard’s owners to ensure they were working in tandem to maximize uses on the peninsula. The companies had been battling in court over which one was responsible for legacy pollution from the steel operation.

The sale reunites the shipyard and the steel mill property. Founded in 1889, they were owned together for more than a century, first by Maryland Steel Co., then Bethlehem Steel. The yard was one of the nation’s most active shipbuilders, producing more than 100 vessels, mostly Liberty cargo ships, during the World War II era.

Bethlehem Steel sold the shipyard in 1997 as part of a restructuring to Baltimore Marine Industries, which used it for ship repair, but went bankrupt in 2003. The yard then was purchased at auction by Barletta Willis Investments LLC of Massachusetts. After an attempt at ship scrapping at the site didn’t come to fruition, the company eyed redeveloping the yard, including talking to offshore windmill makers about using it to build the towering structures.

No one at Barletta Willis Investments was available to comment on the sale.

Meanwhile, the steel mill passed through a number of owners and eventually went bankrupt and was closed in 2012.

Anderson credited the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz with convening a group to evaluate options for the property after the steel mill closed. That group came up with a blueprint for using the site for shipping, manufacturing and distribution.

“There was no buyer yet and cleanup was not underway,” Anderson said. “There was a moment of ‘What are we going to do here?’ ”

Tradepoint, a joint venture of the local investment firm Redwood Capital Investments and the Chicago-based liquidation and redevelopment firm Hilco, has largely been following that plan.

Earlier this month, Tradepoint announced that Gotham Greens, a New York-based hyrdoponic farming company, planned to build a 100,000-square-foot greenhouse operation that would employ about 60 people at Sparrows Point

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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