Packing House Phase II

Cambridge, MD
In a continued restoration of the Phillips Packing House, this historic factory on Maryland's Eastern Shore will now be a state-of-the-art LEED Gold hub of innovation and workforce development.
  • $10.0 Million
  • $5 Million New Markets Tax Credit Allocation
  • Cross Street Partners
  • Workforce Development, Small Business Support, Light Manufacturing, Nonprofit Support
NTCIC Contact:
Mike Palien: mpalien@ntcic.com

Background

Nestled between the waters of Chesapeake Bay and the farmland of the Eastern Shore, The Phillips Packing Company utilized these nearby resources to become a leading cannery in the United States. As the company grew, it acquired its final building in 1930, one of the largest factories in Cambridge, Maryland. “Factory F,” as it was known, became the headquarters for the company’s successful tomato operation, where they soon became a global name as the largest producer of canned tomatoes in the world. Packing House

The company also extended its goods to the war effort, becoming the main supplier of individual canned and pre-cooked meals (known as C-rations) to soldiers during World Wars I and II. In the 1930s, it also supplied food and provisions to Antarctic explorers. These successes put Cambridge on the map, and the community reaped the benefits.

At one point, the Phillips Packing Company employed about a quarter of the population of Cambridge. It was also one of the few desegregated employers; anyone and everyone was welcome to work in the hustle of the factories.

The Phillips Packing Company continued to be an economic staple, eventually expanding into trucking and oil before it was finally sold to Consolidated Foods (now a Sara Lee Corporation) in the 1960s. Factory F was the only remaining production building from the Phillips Packing Company empire.

The Project

The historic warehouse has become the Packing House and will continue its legacy of the Chesapeake by creating an environmentally sustainable space for emerging entrepreneurs, workforce development, and aquaculture.

It is the new headquarters for Blue Oyster Environmental, a locally owned and vertically integrated company and industry leader in oyster farming and fishery restoration practices. The organization spawns and grows their oysters, then harvests them utilizing the equipment they manufacture. They then donate the processed shells to local wild fisheries to support oyster spawning and help to remove contaminates like nitrogen and phosphorus from the Chesapeake Bay. The new space within the Packing House will further expand their operations by enabling them to process their harvested oysters and sell their products in a new restaurant and retail space.

Continuing the culinary trend, Four Eleven Kitchen will establish a shared commercial kitchen designed to empower, elevate, and establish a thriving food entrepreneur community, support the local food economy by providing an easy-to-work-in space, welcoming diverse food concepts and entrepreneurs, and creating direct access to fresh food produced locally.

Providing stability and inclusion to the community of Cambridge was the expectation at The Packing House when it was a cannery, and the same is true today. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will continue its efforts to help families find and maintain affordable housing, offer mortgage loans and other payment assistance to low- and moderate-income families, and offer various programs to improve community life. They also work with local governments and nonprofit organizations to enhance existing neighborhoods in the surrounding community and develop new affordable housing opportunities.

MERGE presently occupies much of the second floor of The Packing House, offering memberships in a dynamic workspace environment for 40–50 small businesses. The company maintains an atmosphere of creativity, growth, and entrepreneurship while providing flexible workspaces alongside like-minded people. Two current businesses currently working at MERGE are Moving Dorchester Forward, a collective impact organization working to transform the community through education advocacy and initiatives to have every 3rd grader reading at grade level; and Eastern Shore Network for Change, an organization that addresses the education, representation, and revitalization issues facing Dorchester County. MERGE hosts nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneurs and, in addition to the office spaces, open work memberships attract a wide variety of users and help build community.

Cross Street Partners, a vertically integrated real estate company with a mission to rebuild communities through vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods, is leading the project development. The company specializes in the adaptive reuse of historic properties, sustainable design, and transit-oriented development.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

The Cambridge community is once again benefiting from jobs created from within The Packing House. The extensive construction and preservation efforts generated 110 construction jobs, and as the tenant businesses grow in their new spaces, they’ll create and retain a projected 161 permanent jobs. 100% of the construction and permanent positions will be quality, well-paying jobs targeting and supporting the community.

The tenants of the building are dedicated to giving back to the community through various programming and support.  The Maryland DHCD operates a Community Engagement Center within the Packing House to host training and certification programs for residents, including holistic health, continuing education in the medical field, farming certifications, and landscaping certifications.

MERGE is focusing on career growth support by operating one of Cambridge, Maryland’s few incubation hubs and shared office space, with a focus on education. The new collaborative space will support an estimated 50 entrepreneurs each year. Several active MERGE members, such as the Dorchester Foundation, are community-oriented and operate youth employment programs targeting low-income families.

Food entrepreneurs will also benefit from the new space, with Four Eleven Kitchen offering classes, support, and training in its food concept spaces. Four times a year, it will offer six—to eight-week programs for six young chefs (24 annually). The Four Eleven Kitchen will also offer an additional 10–20 food concept production platforms for others looking to try their hand in the kitchen.

All of this and more will take place in the newly renovated Packing House. This historic, 60,000-square-foot industrial warehouse has been awarded LEED Gold certification for meeting high standards in energy efficiency, water conservation, and material reuse. It is projected that the restored Packing House will conserve 148.9 MWh of electricity each year, equivalent to the amount of energy used when burning 120,000 lbs. of coal.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The $10 million phase II of the historic restoration of the Packing House was made possible through public and private financing, including a $5 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation from NTCIC. This critical funding will ensure the tenants’ spaces are activated so they can grow and support more members of the surrounding community.

Additional Phase II funding sources included Historic Tax Credit equity and a $2.5 million in additional NMTC allocation from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation.

Phase I of the Packing House development, totaling $26 million in development costs, began in 2021 and was completed in 2023.

Click here to read our project announcement.

Image Credits: Patrick Ross Photography
Written by Lauren Wilcox