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Ex-plant to get another face lift


The former Mangels Herold Co. King Syrup plant on Key Highway, redone into a city business incubator among other uses, is slated for another makeover.

The city, which owns the four-building South Harbor Business Center at 1414 Key Highway, said yesterday that it had selected a developer to buy and "polish not demolish" the complex.

The development team, SHBC Partnership, plans to restore two of the four buildings, more than 100 years old, and clean up the other two.

"We're going to finish what they started," said Martin P. Azola, one of the developers, of the Baltimore Development Corp. The BDC, the city's economic development arm, has had control of the property for more than 15 years and leased about 70 percent of the approximately 80,000 square feet of space to 11 tenants that include light industrial users, small technology start-ups and the city's Greater Baltimore Technology Development Center.

Most of the work will not be done for another three years, when the bulk of the leases expire. While most tenants are expected to renew those leases, some may leave and give the owners some empty space into which to move people as sections are upgraded. Azola and his partners will seek to fill much of the remaining space now and renovate around them as well.

The first floor of one building will be turned into about 35 parking spaces. Developers will also seek to extend a lease the city has on a nearby parking lot so tenants do not park in the neighborhood, which is between Federal Hill and Locust Point.

Azola is known for his work on adaptive reuse of historic buildings, including conversion of a furniture warehouse in Federal Hill into condominiums, the Hotel Junker on Fayette Street into offices and another building on West Fayette Street into offices for Catholic Relief Services.

The project marks the first ownership stake he will hold in a project in about 10 years, said Azola, who has been doing construction work since the real estate crash of the early 1990s forced him into bankruptcy.

The other members of the development team are Kenneth R. Banks, president and chief executive officer of Banks Contracting Co., one of the largest black-owned commercial construction companies in the city, and Mark Weinman, of the Morris Weinman Co., which manages properties.

BDC officials, who have been selling off some city properties, said they liked this proposal's additional parking, preservation elements and focus on office and light industrial users.

"They planned to keep more of the buildings than the others," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC. "They'll make the buildings look a little fresher on the outside and keep the roof from leaking, something we struggled with."

The partnership beat out Struever Brothers Eccles & Rouse Inc. and A&R; Development Corp. for the project.

Struever has been working on two other rehabilitation projects in the area.

The Struever projects, Tide Point and the former Coca Cola syrup plant on Fort Avenue, are not fully leased.

But Azola said demand from tenants is not a big worry because he has space for only a few small users and three years before the buildings get made over.

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