Seagram’s demo to begin this week
All but a couple of the buildings comprising the former Seagrams distillery on Sollers Point Road should be down by the end of the week — and the remainder will soon follow.
That was the word of developer John Vontran during an interview on Monday.
After the remaining structures on the property are removed, the real work begins: construction of a residential community which could see its first homes completed by next summer.
“If we get final approval from the county by the end of September, we hope to start construction in November, December,” Vontran said.
That would be the start of Foundry Station, a 185-unit townhouse community.
The townhomes would vary in height and width. Some would be wide enough to include a twocar garage in the back and a fourth-floor loft. Others would be wide enough for a one-car garage and be three floors high.
The basic floor plan for the homes would have the garage and a rec room on the first floor; kitchen, dining and living rooms on the second floor, and three bedrooms on the third floor.
For those houses with a fourth floor, it would include a loft or bedroom, an attic and a roof deck with views of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and Canton.
“With the fourth-floor option, you can see the Natty Boh guy in Canton,” Vontran said.
Vontran, who has owned the former distillery property since 2008, has come under criticism in the past from community members and local politicians who felt he was taking too long to do something with the site.
Over the years, and despite continued efforts to secure access to the 13-acre former distillery (Vontran said he has kept a log of the number of times they’ve repaired holes in the fences that were cut by intruders), trespassers have set several fires among the abandoned buildings, and two people have died as a result of falls while exploring the buildings.
“It’s taken two years and nine months to get the plan approved,” Vontran said. “The process just takes a long time. There are attorneys and architects involved ... there’s nothing I can do to speed up the time. It’s just the county process.”
Vontran initially purchased the property with a plan to build senior housing on the site. The first fire set by a trespasser, plus changing market conditions, caused him to seek another option.
After a market study determined an upscale apartment/condominium development would not be feasible, Vontran filed the Foundry Station plan with Baltimore County in June 2014.
Vontran said he applied for the demolition permit back in June, before a July 3 arson fire that led to his being cited for a county code enforcement violation.
The fire left the front of the damaged building leaning precariously.
“The county ordered it to come down, so we immediately went out and took the whole facade down,” Vontran said. “But we had applied for a demolition permit in June and put out bids for four, five different contractors. We started that process before the fire happened.
“By Friday of this week [Sept. 1], we’ll have two-tofour of the buildings down. One of the buildings, with old boilers, will be a threeweek process. And we can’t take down the bigger building right away, because it’s attached to the boiler building.”
The boilers contain asbestos, so there will be an asbestos abatement process from Aug. 26 through Oct. 6.
“As the buildings are certified, they’ll be coming down,” Vontran said.
During the abatement process, the affected buildings will be sealed off and no as- bestos will escape into the local environment. A thirdparty industrial hygienist will oversee the project.
After the demolition of the remaining distillery buildings are complete, Vontran still needs two permits approved by the county before he can begin construction on Foundry Station.
“We’re waiting for approval on grading and stormwater management,” Vontran said.
A grading permit is required when work is done that will disturb soil, or use over 100 cubic yards of fill material. Stormwater management is the plan to properly direct the water runoff from storms so as not to cause erosion, dump sediment into the Chesapeake Bay or leave standing water as breeding grounds for mosquitos.
When those two permits are approved, construction of Foundry Homes can begin. This was contrary to a statement from a representative of county councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), who told The Eagle in July: “To our knowledge, [Vontran] has everything he needs to start developing the property. He’s gotten all of his permits.”
“I’ve been working with the councilman’s office,” Vontran said. “They just didn’t understand the process, got confused as to what permits we were talking about. I’m confident we will continue to work well with the councilman’s office.”
As for fears that destruction of the abandoned buildings and the subsequent construction work will release a wave of home-deprived rats on the neighboring communities, Vontran said trapping has indicated there aren’t many rats on the property.
“There’s just nothing for them to eat in there,” he said.
If all goes as scheduled, the first “stick” of eight townhomes will be finished and up for sale next summer.
The townhomes are expected to sell in the low $200,000 range, and are for homeowners, Vontran said. No renters; no Section 8 housing, as enforced by a homeowners association.
“The market is good for individual homes,” he said. “The Dundalk area has 43 miles of waterfront, is 15 minutes from Canton, there’s the Sparrows Point Country Club, and new jobs will be coming to Sparrows Point [with the development of the former Bethlehem Steel property].
“I’m not concerned about finding buyers. I feel the homes will be priced right for the market.”
As part of the development, Vontran will donate $200,000 in Community Benefit funds. Part of that money has already been used to purchase the new sign outside Dundalk Middle School.
For the rest of the funds, approximately $125,000, Vontran feels the decision on how to use them should be determined by the communities upon which it will have the most impact.
(Although he did suggest a concession stand for the Dundalk High stadium.)
And if anyone should still be wondering: Frank Scarfield (previous owner of the distillery property) is not involved in this project “in any way, shape or form,” Vontran said.
A concept drawing displays plans for the completed Foundry Station townhomes.
A concept rendering of the Foundry Station development.
A concept rendering of the exterior of completed townhomes at Foundry Station.