Development of Point port facility touted
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 14:20


by Nicole Rodman

    Last Friday, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the results of a year-long study conducted by the Sparrows Point Partnership.
    The Sparrows Point Partnership was formed last May to report on the best ways to bring new industry and jobs to the Sparrows Point peninsula.
    Made up of manufacturing, logistics, real estate and commercial executives and Port of Baltimore officials, the Partnership spent the last year developing a vision to bring up to 10,000 new jobs to Sparrows Point.
    Kamenetz formed the Partnership, and commissioned its now-released report, in anticipation of the bankruptcy filing of then-Sparrows Point steel mill owner RG Steel.
    After declaring bankruptcy last May, the mill closed for good in June.
    In August, the mill land was purchased by Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) and the mill assets to Hilco International for a total $72.5 million.
    In announcing the results of the Partnership’s report, Kamenetz stated, “We view the Sparrows Point peninsula not as the resting place of a declining smokestack industry, but as 3,300 acres with a combination of assets rarely found in one place in the Northeast United States.”
    In their report, entitled “Common Ground: A Vision for Redeveloping Sparrows Point and Leveraging the Industrial Assets of East Baltimore County,” the Partnership proposed four potential uses for the Sparrows Point peninsula.
    These uses are port/maritime commerce, advanced manufacturing and assembly, clean energy and distributions and logistics.
    In presenting these four uses, the report provides justification for each.
    The Partnership supports the Port’s proposal to obtain the land at Coke Point, on the peninsula’s southern tip, for use as a dredge containment facility.
    According to Port plans, once the dredge facility is full (in 10 to 15 years), the land would become a marine terminal, providing thousands more jobs for the area and allow the port to expand operations.
    Though ELT rejected the port’s latest proposal in March, negotiations over the plan are ongoing.
    The report also calls for part of the Sparrows Point land to be used for clean energy generation. This would include plants producing solar energy and energy derived from organic materials and waste.    
    Citing a trend toward bringing manufacturing work back to America (“insourcing”), the report also claims that many jobs could be gained by bringing new manufacturing to the area.
    As the Partnership report states, “Sparrows Point is ideally positioned to capitalize on the changes taking place in the manufacturing world.”
    The report also notes that facilities specializing in manufacture of materials related to wind power, high speed, heavy and light rail transportation and flood control systems would be a good fit in the area.
    Finally, the report lays out plans for potential distribution and logistics facilities on the northern end of the peninsula.
    The report notes that Sparrows Point is an ideal site for warehouses that would serve as storage, shipping and containerization facilities for manufacturers.
    This too, the report notes, could bring thousands of jobs to the area.
    The report also touts the many assets that make Sparrows Point an attractive location for business and industry.
    These assets include large landmass (3,300 acres), industrial zoning, deepwater access, access to transportation, supplies of natural gas, electricity and water and a ready workforce.
    The Partnership report also points to challenges presented by contamination at the former steel mill site.
    In to the report, the Partnership notes that “environmental constraints should not deter industrial redevelopment for much of the Sparrows Point Focus Area,” as 80 percent of the site is not heavily polluted and would require little remediation.
    The report does note that about 600 acres (comprising such areas as Coke Point, the Tin Mill Canal, Greys Landfill, the Coke Oven areas and Humpreys Impoundment) are heavily contaminated and would “require extensive remediation.”
    As the report explains, land owner ELT is working with the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop clean-up plans for these areas.
    Now that the report is out, the next step in the Sparrows Point Partnership’s plans, according to county spokeswoman Fronda Cohen, is to to meet with Dundalk community and business groups.
    While the Partnership report is a non-binding proposal, Point landowner ELT has embraced the Partnership’s findings.
    John Macsherry, vice president of ELT parent company Commercial Development Corporation said in a statement, “Environmental Liability Transfer/Commercial Development Company is in support of the vision outlined by the Partnership in this report.”
    Referring to ongoing negotiations with the Port over a possible dredge facility at Coke Point, Macsherry noted, “We see the Port as an active partner in the repurposing of the site and are looking forward to finalizing a transaction with the Port.”
    While Macsherry may be on board with the Partnership’s plans, local environmental activist Russell Donnelly has a different view.
    Saying he was speaking on behalf of various unnamed community groups around the state, he commented, “We don’t favor it. We like jobs, but they want green jobs, not smokestacks and outfalls.”
    Under his own proposal for the area, Donnelly would like to see the entire peninsula capped and developed into a recreational area, including a cruise terminal, maritime museum, hotels and green spaces.
    “There are interested parties,” Donnelly said of his plan, claiming that it would bring 20 to 40,000 new jobs to the area.
    “We’re at a crossroads, we can go back to industrial or we can go forward into a new age,” he said.    
    For all parties, however, the hope is that, by bringing new life to the former steel mill property, economic prosperity will follow.
    The full Sparrows Point Partnership report is available online at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/business.