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Baltimore’s Former Montgomery Ward Building Wins National Redevelopment Award

Release Date: 10/30/2003
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Montgomery Park Business Center in downtown Baltimore received EPA’s grand prize Phoenix Award for excellence in brownfields redevelopment. Brownfields are abandoned commercial or industrial properties where redevelopment has been hampered by potential liability for contamination.

The award, which is named after the mythical bird that rose from the ashes symbolizing eternal life, was presented here at the National Brownfields Conference this week at the Oregon Convention Center. The Phoenix Awards are presented to redevelopment projects that use innovative environmental solutions which have positive impacts on their communities.

“We are thrilled that Montgomery Park has been chosen as the grand prize winner of this prestigious award that also honors the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland as national leaders in brownfields redevelopment,” said Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

According to EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh, the Montgomery Park Business Center was chosen for its innovative approach to cleaning up a contaminated site and revitalizing an economically depressed area of downtown Baltimore. The center was financed through a unique partnership among governmental and private sources, and the building itself uses a sustainable redevelopment design.

The 1.3 million-square-foot business center, located in Baltimore’s west side empowerment zone, served as the Montgomery Ward catalog operation until it was abandoned in 1985. Its developer, Himmelrich Associates worked with the Baltimore Development Corporation to finance the restoration of the property and building, first cleaning up the contamination, removing underground storage tanks, lead paint, petroleum, PCBs and asbestos.

The building was rehabbed using “green” building design, including a green rooftop, low-energy heating, cooling and lighting systems.

“Winning the grand prize for Montgomery Park is particularly meaningful because it acknowledges the teamwork required to pull off the project from the City of Baltimore and the state of Maryland,” said Samuel K. Himmelrich, president of Himmelrich Associates.

The business center, now 40 percent occupied, opened last year and is expected to create or retain 3,500 to 5,000 jobs. The NCO Group, a financial services firm, leased 80,000 square feet in a move that consolidated several suburban and rural locations and brought 800 jobs to southwest Baltimore. Aside from NCO, the tenant list includes the Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Lottery; and First Health. Currently, about 1,800 new and retained jobs are housed in the building, well on the way to meeting the original projection.

EPA initially provided the City of Baltimore with $600,000 in grants to conduct assessment and planning for brownfields redevelopment. Up-front capital expenditures could not be privately financed, so the BDC worked with the developer to secure a $15 million loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and several state and local sources.

The Phoenix Awards are widely recognized as the outstanding award for achievement of excellence in brownfields redevelopment. Fifty-two projects from 17 states have received the prestigious honor. One Phoenix Award winner is selected from each of the EPA’s 10 regions, one from international submissions and one grand prize winner. Additional winners are selected for “community impact awards” that recognize participants for their exceptional projects in smaller communities.

To find out about other Phoenix Award winners, go to: