Fells Point warehouse has a future after 28 years; Mixed uses planned for long-vacant structure

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Baltimore developer is transforming Fells Point's last vacant warehouse into a mixed-use commercial, retail and residential complex, which is expected to generate 107 jobs in the city's empowerment zone.

Mason Dixon Properties LLC, in conjunction with Empower Baltimore Management Corp. (EBMC) and the city's Community Development Finance Corp. (CDFC), held a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday at the 150-year-old building at 1800 Lancaster St. The $5 million Lancaster Square project is scheduled to be completed by September.

"It's really one of the premier spots in the city, sandwiched between Canton and Inner Harbor East," said Larry Silverstein of Mason Dixon Properties.

In line with other reuse plans that have turned the city's former factories into apartments or trendy shops, Silverstein said the five-building, 50,000-square-foot structure will be converted into 10 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of commercial and parking space. Leases with an unnamed software company and a national promotions company are in the works, he said.

Silverstein acquired the property, which has been vacant for 28 years, through a $340,000 EBMC "brownfields" loan. The loans, which are meant to revive old properties that might contain small-scale environmental hazards, provided money to buy the buildings and remove lead paint.

"It's a classic brownfields reuse," said Derrick D. Southard, president of Milestone Associates Inc., which manages the loan fund.

Michael Preston, EBMC spokesman, said the loan was a springboard for the CDFC to get involved. The CDFC contributed a $3.6 million construction loan and invested $1 million to complete the project.

"By us getting in early," Preston said, "it made sense for the CDFC to get in on this project."

Diane Bell, EBMC president, said the project will bring more jobs into the empowerment zone -- an area designated for federal development dollars and tax breaks to lure new businesses.

"This project will not only bring unused properties back into use, but also provide jobs and services for local residents and new customers for area businesses," Bell said.

Pub Date: 3/05/99

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