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Incentives help lure Maryland Office Interiors back to Baltimore


Forced out of Baltimore by the building of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Maryland Office Interiors, an office furniture retailer based in Woodlawn, said it is returning, lured in part by the city's Empowerment Zone program.

"Hopefully, we will be the seed to changing the area," said Leonard Sachs, chairman of Maryland Office Interiors. "I like being involved in the city. It's a new, exciting place to grow."

Mr. Sachs said he hopes to move his company's operation by the end of the year from its present rented 40,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse at 1800 Woodlawn Drive to a 55,000-square-foot complex at 1415 Russell St.

About 63 of the 73 workers at the Woodlawn office will move downtown, with the rest going to the company's Washington office, which now has about 12 workers, Mr. Sachs said.

The building, which most recently was occupied by Direct Marketing Associates Inc., sports a prominent Maryland Lottery sign on its side, very visible to drivers going north from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The building also was famous for being the perch for "Nipper," the RCA dog always listening for his master's voice, before he was taken down in 1976.

Mr. Sachs said the purchase and renovation of the building will cost "several million dollars."

Selling primarily to large companies and institutions like Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Hospital and T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Maryland Office Interiors has sales of more than $20 million a year, according to Mr. Sachs.

The move of Mr. Sachs' company is an important boost to the city's Empowerment Zone program, which seeks to vastly improve the condition of three sections of Baltimore with the aid of a $100 million federal grant and various tax breaks.

Maryland Office Interiors is only the second company to say it is moving into the Empowerment Zones (drugstore chain Revco was the first), according to John R. Sundergill, acting president of the Baltimore Development Corp. But he hopes its example will inspire others.

"It will be the foundation for continued revitalization," Mr. Sundergill said. "It will be the anchor tenant."

Besides getting tax credits for employing residents of the

Empowerment Zones, Mr. Sachs said, he was impressed with plans to convert the area behind the new offices to an industrial park.

"It's going to be in three years a darn good environment," he said.

Mr. Sachs, 70, who is chairman of the Mayor's Advisory Commission on Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, has a long history of supporting the city and only left in 1989 when his operation at Hamburg and Russell streets had to move to make way for the stadium.

"I don't like being out of the city," he said.

But at the time of the move, suitable offices were not available in Baltimore, Mr. Sachs said.

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