The outside of the Hoen building in Collington Square in April 2018. Photo by Ethan McLeod.

The nearly $30 million conversion of East Baltimore’s abandoned A. Hoen & Co. Lithograph building is getting some federal support, with a $1.6 million grant announced today to help outfit the historic former printing plant with infrastructure needed for its rebirth.

The money, awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, will help the developers build out stormwater management, sewer and auxiliary infrastructure, according to an announcement by the agency. The project is receiving the funding due to its location within a federally designated Opportunity Zone, one of 42 in Baltimore.

“This project is a win-win–not only will it revitalize a historic Baltimore landmark, but the end product will create jobs and provide valuable services to our community,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen in a statement. Van Hollen and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young were among the officials who attended an announcement at the Biddle Street building. (Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Ben Cardin sent representatives from their offices.)

Young recounted living close by to the former printing plant when he was younger, and watching it shut down in 1981. He celebrated its planned renovation: “This is gonna be a real community hub here in East Baltimore, and it’s vitally needed.”

The federal grant will be matched with $1.1 million in funds from Baltimore’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Collaborating with the nonprofit Strong City Baltimore, developers Cross Street Partners and City Life Historic Properties have been renovating the Hoen building since breaking ground in April of 2018. They plan to build it into a mixed-use facility for nonprofits, social enterprises and researchers, with an adult literacy center and a workforce incubator offering construction job training, collectively called the Center for Neighborhood Innovation. The hope is also to add ground-floor retail.

Strong City Baltimore, Associated Builders and Contractors-Baltimore and both developers plan to move in once it’s finished. Michael Cross-Barnet, a spokesman for Strong City Baltimore, said construction is “moving briskly forward,” and the nonprofit plans to move in on Jan. 2, 2020.

The Hoen building’s renovation has received state Project CORE funds, $500,000 from the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative and additional money from city and historic preservation grants. Strong City Baltimore announced developers had secured the bulk of the project’s financing in January. Cross-Barnet said it’s a “very complex financial deal” involving as many as 16 different sources.

The nonprofit’s CEO, Karen Stokes, has said this and a handful of other endeavors nearby—among them the renovation of the American Brewery building into Humanim’s headquarters, the creation of the Baltimore Food Hub and Southern Baptist Church’s senior center—can help spur “an East Baltimore renaissance” for Collington Square and other neighborhoods nearby.

The 85,000-square-foot building at 2101 E. Biddle Street was once known for its prolific printing operation–everything from maps and Confederate currency to Topps baseball cards and medical charts. It’s sat vacant since it shut down 38 years ago.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...