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COVID-19 supply chain woes boost Tradepoint Atlantic

The dry dock at Sparrows Point dates back to 1971, and will be used to repair the floating Titan dry dock used to repair naval ships. (Photo courtesy Tradepoint Atlantic)

The dry dock at Sparrows Point dates back to 1971. (Photo courtesy Tradepoint Atlantic)

 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the supply chains of numerous businesses across a variety of industries, which benefits the ongoing redevelopment of Sparrows Point, a Tradepoint Atlantic executive said Wednesday.

Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint Atlantic’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, said the strain placed on logistics networks by the new coronavirus outbreak increased firms’ interest in opening facilities at the 3,300-acre peninsula in southeastern Baltimore County, which the company is transforming into one of the world’s largest multimodal logistics hubs.

“The market is responding to (those inefficiencies),” Tomarchio said during a Greater Baltimore Committee Newsmaker virtual event.

COVID-19, however, has not slowed progress on the build-out of Tradepoint Atlantic. Construction has continued at the site throughout the outbreak unlike at other large projects which suspended work due to the illness.

“From a Tradepoint Atlantic perspective we’ve been moving forward pretty much unimpeded,” Tomarchio said.

In late April, the company also said e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which already operates an 855,000-square-foot distribution space on site, will open a second distribution space in excess of 1 million square feet by the 2020 holiday season.

Other facets of Tradepoint Atlantic’s operations also stayed busy during the COVID-19 outbreak that shuttered many businesses.

Earlier this month the dry docks at Sparrows Point welcomed BAE Systems’ “Titan” dry dock. It put to work the peninsula’s dry docks, which had been constructed in 1971 as a ship building facility but was last used to build the USS Tanner in 1989. It has sat unused since 2017.

The “Titan,” a Norfolk, Virginia-based floating dry dock used to fix naval ships, can lift in excess of 52,500 tons. It is undergoing five months of maintenance and repairs at Tradepoint Atlantic.

Last year marked a surge of building at Tradepoint Atlantic, which included a 1.5 million-square-foot distribution center for high-end home improvement material maker Floor & Decor.

While 2019 was about delivering buildings, Tomarchio said, the rest of 2020 is focused on preparing additional sites for development.

Work at Tradepointn Atlantic, Tomarchio said, is about 50% complete, and tenants already have about 8,000 employees on site.

As a result there’s growing demand for amenities to support workers. Tradepoint Atlantic is starting the groundwork for retail development and likely a hotel on the north side of the peninsula, along with some office space.

A Royal Farms convenience store is set to be the first retail operation at Tradepoint Atlantic when its doors open Friday.

“So if you want to come down to SP and get a bucket of chicken I’m sure they would love to see you,” Tomarchio said.

Tradepoint Atlantic, Tomarchio said, still does not have plans to add a residential component to the project, but the project may entice new residential development in the areas surrounding Sparrows Point.

“We’re a work and somewhat play (development), but not live,” he said.

Sparrows Point served as a steelmaking site dating back to the late 1800s and helped forge Baltimore’s identity as an industrial town. At its peak, when Bethlehem Steel operated the mill, about 31,000 people worked manufacturing steel at the site in the 1950s.

As steelmaking in the U.S. faltered, so did manufacturing at Sparrows Point. Eventually manufacturing operations halted for good on the peninsula in 2012.

In 2014 the entity that would evolve into Tradepoint Atlantic purchased the property and started transforming the site into a multimodal logistics hub. A prime selling point of the property is its transportation links, including immediate highway access, entry to the 50-foot channel between the Patapsco River and the Port of Baltimore, and CSX Railroad facilities.

Currently, about $1.5 billion is invested in Tradepoint Atlantic’s Sparrows Point redevelopment with 20 tenants, Tomarchio said. The firm has demolished 17 million square feet of outdated industrial complex leftover from steelmaking operations at the site.

So far the developer’s built about 8 million square feet of new industrial, warehouse and distribution space. At full build-out Tradepoint Atlantic expects to add up to an additional 8 million square feet of space over the next 15 years.

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