ESLC: Future of Phillips Packing Plant at stake

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff The landmark smokestacks of the Phillips Packing Plant are pictured Tuesday. With high visibility from Route 50 at the geographic center of Cambridge, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Katie Parks is hoping to attract more tenants in order to redevelop the 60,000-square-foot facility.

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff
The landmark smokestacks of the Phillips Packing Plant are pictured Tuesday. With high visibility from Route 50 at the geographic center of Cambridge, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Katie Parks is hoping to attract more tenants in order to redevelop the 60,000-square-foot facility.


CAMBRIDGE — On Oct. 12, the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce hosted two speakers who offered updates on two projects that could greatly change Cambridge’s character — the Cambridge Gateway and the Phillips Packing Plant.

Both Frank Narr, president of Sailwinds Park Inc. who spoke on the gateway, and Katie Parks, Center for Towns director for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy who spoke about the packing plant, offered positive perspectives on their respective projects and what they mean for the city and Dorchester County.

More details about the gateway project are featured in the other front-page story in today’s edition.

Ms. Parks said the next two months are critical for the future of the packing plant. By December, she needs to collect letters of intent from possible users in order to close a deal on the property. By providing letters of intent, business decision makers will have an opportunity to shape the project to their needs.

Built in the 1920s, the 60,000-square-foot, historic and vacant building is the last remaining structure from what was once a 60-acre Phillips Packing Company campus. Phillips was the biggest producer of K-rations in the U.S. during World War II. With the packing company came worker housing which is now the historic Pine Street neighborhood. The building may soon be demolished if not redeveloped and occupied.

“The Phillips building is critically endangered,” Ms. Parks said. “It’s not going to continue to be there. We have to make the decision to save that building.”

ESLC is involved in a joint venture with Cross Street Partners of Baltimore. Cross Street specializes in redeveloping historic properties. The two groups worked together in a different capacity to transform the McCord Laundry building in downtown Easton into the mixed-use Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Much like the McCord building, ESLC and Cross Street hope to save the Phillips Packing Plant, but with a different vision.

In a follow-up email after the Dorchester Chamber presentation, Ms. Parks stated, “Cross Street currently has a contract to purchase the building. … $18.5 million is the projected cost to purchase, and buildout the project. … ESLC is the lead on the local, community aspects of the project, and Cross Street is the lead on the development aspects.”
As the local, community leader of the project, ESLC must obtain more letters of intent for Cross Street to close the deal and begin redevelopment.

“We need to secure additional tenants for the space,” Ms. Parks said. “It’s a critical juncture.”

The slogan for ESLC’s vision for the property is, “what Cambridge makes makes Cambridge,” Ms. Parks said at the meeting.

Overall, ESLC sees the packing plant as a way to support local agriculture and related industries. This includes plans for a market, a kitchen-business incubator, a shared-use innovation hub, event space and perhaps a rooftop bar. The plant will be redeveloped with an intent to gain LEED certification in sustainable and green best practices.

Chef Patrick Fanning, owner of Rock Lobstah in Cambridge and partner of Cambridge Eateries LLC, intends to open a butcherie at the plant. Ms. Parks is also working with Johnny Shockley of Hooper Island Oyster Aquaculture Company to possibly open an oyster bar with retail and eco-tourism components.

The plant, with it’s landmark smokestacks, is highly visible from US Rt 50 and at the geographic center of Cambridge. The city is working to turn an adjacent property into a park at the headwaters of Cambridge Creek.

“We’re very excited to see the progress they are making on that site as well,” Ms. Parks said of the city’s work on the park. Because of the packing plant’s location, cultural heritage and size, she said, “We’re creating opportunities for our communities to attract investment, and that’s private and public. This is a great, great opportunity. …The building is exceptional. … The character and the potential we have to transform this is really exceptional.”

For more information, to express interest in tenancy or to arrange a tour, contact Ms. Parks at kparks@eslc.org or 410-690-4603, ext. 155.

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