Where some see industrial blight, others see opportunity: Such was the premise of a state "brownfields" law passed just six weeks ago to reclaim industrial properties.
Baltimore developer Sam Himmelrich is one of those who sees opportunity. Six months ago, he purchased a forlorn, contaminated industrial building at Howard and Ostend streets, a stone's throw from the new football stadium. His idea was to turn it into an office building.
But because the former Parker Metal Decorating Co. was known to have been contaminated with low levels of solvents and metals, a bank refused to loan him the money if the property was to be used to secure the loan.
Yesterday, standing beside the governor and other state and local officials, Himmelrich became the first developer to apply for assistance under the brownfields program.
Himmelrich is seeking an agreement from the Maryland Department of the Environment that will exempt him from liability for environmental contamination in the future if he agrees to do a certain amount of cleanup.
"It creates a level of predictability for the bank," Himmelrich said. Until now an owner was held liable for removing contamination from his property even if he did not cause it.
The result, proponents of the brownfields law claim, is that thousands of acres, some with little industrial contamination, have been abandoned or left to deteriorate further.
Even when developers wanted to do projects, they were blocked because banks would not lend the money to renovate the properties because the lenders feared they might be held liable years down the road.
Himmelrich plans to renovate the 46,000-square-foot building and construct a three- or four-story addition of 36,000 square feet. The developer said he is negotiating with a potential tenant, a growing local business that wants to use the space as an operations center.
Himmelrich declined to name the company or describe its business. But he said the rent would be half the going rate for downtown office space and will include parking. Himmelrich already has successfully developed old industrial sites such as the Meadow Mill office complex and the Mount Washington Mill shopping area.
Under the new brownfields law, Himmelrich could be entitled to a tax credit from the city. However, the property also is in an enterprise zone, which means the developer may be entitled to a second tax credit. The brownfields law leaves the tax credit up to local jurisdictions, but city officials have not decided what the tax credit will be in this case.
The state Department of Environment has received two other brownfields applications, both for properties in Cumberland: A 66-acre Pittsburgh Plate Glass Industries site in Mexico Farms Industrial Park and a 32-acre CSX Corp. site, a former bolt and forge plant.
Developers want to turn the CSX property in downtown Cumberland into a shopping center.
A use for the Pittsburgh Plate site, which is owned by Allegany County, has not been established, according to state officials.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he believed the brownfields law would help save undeveloped land around the state while helping bring jobs back into older areas.
Pub Date: 4/10/97