Only a handful of structures remain at the 3,100-acre Sparrows Point complex in Baltimore from its heyday as the world’s largest steel mill, but, at present, the expanse seems equally far removed from its new owners’ long-term vision of the site as a major multimodal logistics and distribution hub.
Yet as trucks haul away demolition debris from the far reaches of the property—which abuts a 50-ft-deep channel and was rebranded in January as Tradepoint Atlantic to boost its global appeal to new tenants—the first evidence of the hoped-for economic metamorphosis is visible.
Construction is underway on a 48-acre site for FedEx Ground’s new, 300,000-sq-ft warehouse, set to begin operations next year. Talks are in varying stages with other possible tenants, who would get state-provided tax incentives, say media reports.
Baltimore County also seeks up to $100 million from the state for transportation upgrades. As many as 12,000 jobs are envisioned over the next decade.
Since Sparrows Point was purchased in 2012 by Redwood Capital Investments, Hanover, Md., and Hilco Global, Northbrook, Ill., much of the former 17-million-sq-ft industrial complex has been leveled by MCM Management Corp. As scattered piles of varied debris are sorted, the demolition firm claims to have already recycled more than 1.28 million tons of steel, copper and aggregate, along with 245,000 gallons of oils and 157,000 lbs of batteries.
“We inherited what was a city of 50,000 people, with its own integrated network of buildings and infrastructure,” says Tradepoint Atlantic spokesman Aaron Tomarchio. “We’ve dealt with everything from 100-year-old buildings, abandoned with equipment and furnishings in place, to recovering artwork of the steelmaking process, for preservation.”
The new owners also inherited a 1997 environmental consent decree forged by former owner Bethlehem Steel with state and federal agencies. Tomarchio says that, despite the site’s intense industrial activity, only 700 acres were found to have major issues with benzene, naphthalene and other contaminants. Declining to reveal how much has been spent of Tradepoint Atlantic’s $48-million commitment to resolving on- and off-shore contamination, he says the firm continues to work closely with both agencies on site monitoring and cleanup.
“We’ll do what’s necessary until we receive the ‘no further action’ letter from EPA,” Tomarchio says. MCM has worked with consultant EnviroAnalytics Group to deposit more than 5,300 tons of asbestos in a 62-acre on-site landfill and to dispose of 157,000 gallons of PCB oil at sites around the country.
A spokesman for Maryland's environmental agency says that Tradepoint Atlantic "has completed environmental sampling on a number of large parcels and is continuing to submit work plans for environmental characterization on other parcels to prepare for redevelopment." He says these include measures to treat contaminated groundwater at in areas where steelmaking actitivities, which began at the site in 1889, were most intense.
MCM principal Rob Mardigian says major remaining work includes demolishing the steel mill’s decommissioned power plant, administration building and about 28,000 lineal feet of pipeline trestles, all of which will require abatement for asbestos and other materials. “We expect site reclamation activities will last at least through the end of this year,” he says.
MCM is preparing parcels as Tradepoint Atlantic implements its redevelopment master plan, which was completed in-house after originally being assigned to Parsons Brinckerhoff. As roads and other infrastructure are built over the next four to five years, contaminated locations will be handled by capping or other measures, depending on envisioned end-use.
Ultimately, Tradepoint Atlantic will represent a $1-billion investment, with 15 million sq ft of vertical construction oriented around the property’s existing 100-mile short-line railroad network, which is linked to both CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines. Upgrades also will include marine facilities and a full interchange with nearby Interstate 695.