BALTIMORE-A historic but abandoned Montgomery Ward warehouse in west Baltimore will be reborn as a state-of-the-art commercial office complex with the help of a federal grant. It will also become the new home of a Maryland state government agency.

The Maryland Department of the Environment just signed a 10-year lease for 262,300 sf at the Montgomery Park Business Center last week. The department headquarters and 900 employees will relocate from Point Breeze Business Center in southeast Baltimore in November 2001.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded $9 million to the City of Baltimore to renovate the art-deco warehouse at 1000 S. Monroe St. into the planned Montgomery Park Business Center. It is the largest single brownfields assistance project that HUD has undertaken.

The entire project is designed to turn the eight-story, 1.25-million-sf structure first built in 1925 into an office and high-tech complex for about 5,000 workers. It is expected to cost $75 million over 10 years. Part of the city’s West Side Empowerment Zone, city officials hope to create 1,400 new jobs for local residents and stimulate additional investment worth millions of dollars, said Richard Escalante, an economic development officer working on the project for the city. The project is owned and overseen by Baltimore developer Himmelrich Associates Inc.

The renovation will preserve the building’s original art-deco architecture and capitalize on its large floor plates and high ceilings. Modern fiber-optic cabling and other telecommunications gear will be installed.

The HUD grant comes in the form of an $8 million Section 108 guaranteed loan and a $1 million Brownfields Economic Development Initiative grant.

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