Dorchester profile unveiled, with Packing House special tour

By Laura Walter, Special Projects Editor
Posted 1/24/23

As a celebration of Dorchester County’s economic prowess and potential, the 2023 “Water Moves Us” economic profile was released this month, a glossy magazine that highlights …

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Dorchester profile unveiled, with Packing House special tour


As a celebration of Dorchester County’s economic prowess and potential, the 2023 “Water Moves Us” economic profile was released this month, a glossy magazine that highlights business potential, success stories and overall quality of life here.

Community leaders were invited to a Jan. 18 luncheon at The Packing House atrium in Cambridge.

This is the magazine’s 10th year, said Darel La Prade, publisher of the Dorchester Banner and this magazine. He remembered when the project was first pitched. “I had such high hopes … and the book has improved — not because we’ve done things better but rather because of the progress the county has made. And this book is the best we’ve done so far. I’m sure it’s going to get even better in years to come.”

Nothing could portray this better than the building this took place. La Prade was surrounded by a bright, high-ceilinged, glass-wrapped atrium, with exposed brick floors and a construction crew moving quietly, but steadily just outside.

With articles on innovative industries, fascinating farms, public murals, restaurants and more, the magazine helps businesses in their decision to build or expand in Dorchester, while educating the community.

The title “Water Moves Us” references the county’s marketing slogan and culture: “Home to industrious, innovative and creative individuals, Dorchester County’s landscape defines not only where – but who – we are.”

“The magazine would not only be used as an attraction tool but a way to spread good news,” said Susan Banks, director of Dorchester County Economic Development Office. Her office will distribute the magazine more widely to the public in March.

She also shared business data on Dorchester projects and recent grant awards for workforce development, broadband internet, Chesapeake College program expansions and more. Banks invites the community to contact her office for economic development support, from data to marketing materials.

The air was full of excitement as building staff announced a tour of The Packing House, a century-old factory undergoing massive rehabilitation. As reported in the 2022 Water Moves Us, the warehouse is huge in size and importance. The 60,000-square-foot space started for the Cambridge Furniture Company, then had its heyday as Phillips Packing Company’s “Factory F,” drawing from the agricultural power of the Delmarva Peninsula to send food products to the war effort and grocery shelves.

Since the company closed in the 1960s, the old building became dilapidated until a coalition formed between the residents of Cambridge, the nonprofit Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and the developer, Cross Street Partners.

“We’re big believers in the idea that people like to be around other people,” said Bill Struever, CEO of Cross Street Partners. “Organic interaction: that is the basis of innovation and community-building … in the end, you want to be around other people and share ideas.”

All of this could connect to other Cambridge neighborhoods through the rails-to-trails program.

The business tenants will be: the Four Eleven Kitchen, a shared-use commercial kitchen where small businesses, caterers and cottage food industry chefs can use a professional space, learn and collaborate; Blue Oyster Environmental aquaculture, processing, plus a cocktail and raw bar; and MERGE, which provides individuals or small companies with desk or office space throughout the building. And there’s room for one more.

Shared office space will be completed in a few weeks, although the entire building is likely a year or two out.

“The idea here is to … have more of a gathering space. You have people, working, you can put your laptop here, fix your lunch … we want to be able to welcome people in,” said Jodie Schram, community manager of MERGE, as she led a tour through the building, with its variety of textures, new paint, old brick and repurposed wood and light fixture.

“And it’s just a gem of a building. Even with the roof leaking, or trees growing inside, it’s just so beautiful. You just stand in there, and light pours in at every angle, so there’s just this visual joy that’s connected with it,” Margaret Norfleet-Neff, development partner, previously told the Dorchester Banner.

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