Startup Maryland visits Cambridge on annual tour
CAMBRIDGE — The Startup Maryland bus made a tour stop in Cambridge on Thursday, Sept. 15, to celebrate the restoration project in the works at the former Phillips Packing Company and local “Where are they now?” stories featuring the folks behind RAR
Brewing and Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture.
The first stop of the day brought the bus to Phillips Canning Factory F to hear about the adaptive reuse project planned for the site from representatives with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Cross Street Partners, the City of Cambridge and Dorchester County.
“We’re viewing this project as an opportunity to catalyze, or leverage for comprehensive revitalization, for the area referred to as the “packing district,” which includes the park, the building, and the factory housing that was constructed by the Phillips company in the 1900s, and the greater area around it,” said ESLC Center for Towns Director Katie Parks. “We’ve really been focused on building economic opportunity around the food and farming industries on the Eastern Shore within this building.”
Parks explained how ESLC, the City of Cambridge, Dorchester County, and the State of Maryland have partnered to acquire the 6.6 acre parcel of land adjacent to the building which will become Cannery Park, in addition to the project planned for the building itself.
“We are so excited about this project,” said ESLC Executive Director Rob Etgen. “I just can’t say how important we feel it is to the future of Cambridge and the Eastern Shore. The history of this building and what it meant to the region for so very long, we see that potential on the horizon.”
A few of the uses planned for the building once restored include event space, a kitchen and food business incubator, shared use office space, and a market.
“You look at Cambridge, you look at this falling down old building, a vestige of the economy of the past here,” said Bill Struever, master planner at Cross Street Partners. “Can we build off the unique nature of the Eastern Shore with amazing farmland and food entrepreneurs and create our own sense of place?”
Struever said closing on the property should happen in the first half of 2017 and all parties involved hope to have the project up and rolling soon after.
“The great opportunity of these innovation places is once they get big enough with enough momentum, there’s tons of folks that want to be around them,” said Struever.
Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding spoke to the tax credit programs used for projects such as this, and how investment in historic preservation adds value and creates jobs for the community.
“The saying in the historic preservation community is, ‘Sometimes new ideas need old buildings.’ The way that you reinvest in a community like Cambridge is by building on what is already here,” said Redding. “This is the smartest kind of approach. This building not only had value in the past but it also has value in the future. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Dorchester County Tourism Director Amanda Fenstermaker and Economic Development Business Manager Susan Banks spoke to the economic prosperity once symbolized by the Phillips Packing Company, and the personal connection felt by the community to such a rich par t of the city’s history.
City of Cambridge Economic Development Associate Director Brandon Hesson said that this project is an easy thing for the city to get behind.
“Ultimately, the reach is a lot bigger because it connects that entrepreneurial spirit to wild and crazy ideas,” said Hesson. “It’s a big, prominent icon for wild and crazy ideas, and making them work here in Cambridge, but connecting to something that this building served in the past. The fabric of our community isn’t that much different.”
“This is a great story to tell as well. When we find a community getting together and working together across geography, ideology, politics, it’s inspiring,” said Startup Maryland CEO Mike Binko. “It doesn’t happen everywhere. We couldn’t be more proud to see what we’re seeing here. Hopefully, we’ll be a part of it as it unfolds, and we would like Cambridge and this facility to be the ‘Where are they now?’ story a year or two from now.”
Following the stop at the Phillips Packing Company, the Startup Maryland crew visited the new Eastern Shore Innovation Center and RAR Brewing.
A screening of Startup Maryland’s documentary STRT1UP Road Show, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the annual statewide tour, was held at RAR Brewing.
RAR Brewing and Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture are alumni of the Pitch Across Maryland tour. They have since become sponsors of the tour along with organizations such as the Maryland Department of Commerce, Tedco, Kloudtrack, Daasn and many more.
“We believe entrepreneurship is a path to solving a lot of problems that can go unaddressed by politics or policy,” said Binko. “We can bring the sheer will of the entrepreneurial community to work and make it happen and celebrate it as it’s happening.”
Pitch Across Maryland offers entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to create a video pitch that will be seen by investors and other players that could help them make their idea a reality. In addition to the video pitch program, Startup Maryland has several other programs, such as a bootcamp, to educate and encourage entrepreneurs in their ventures.
Startup Maryland is a branch of Startup America, the only one to have a statewide bus tour, and ranks in the Top 5 for number of startups per capita.
Bill Struever with Cross Street Partners spoke about the vision for the project and presented displays of concept art to Startup Maryland CEO Mike Binko.