A major fire in East Baltimore may delay redevelopment plans as firefighters worked to battle a massive blaze in a vacant warehouse on Tuesday afternoon. According to the Baltimore Sun, 50 firefighters worked for hours to put out the blaze, which sent smoke spiraling into the sky for miles.

The warehouse was apparently used by many of the city's homeless people to keep out of the cold in the winter months, but the Baltimore Fire department reported no injuries and said that no one appeared to be inside, during a preliminary check inside. As of the time of this writing, no reason has been given for the cause of the warehouse fire, but the Baltimore Fire Department has stated that they have had to put out smaller fires at the scene before.

The fire happened near the John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, which sent out a warning on its Facebook page to students in the area asking them to stay indoors and use alternative entrances and exits to move around the campus.

Redeveloping Baltimore

The warehouse was once owned by glass and plastics manufacturer Pemco Corp., and the smell of burning plastics lingered in the air. Today, it is owned by MCB Real Estate which has been looking to redevelop the area in a project called Yard 56. In March 2017, it announced plans to develop 500,000 acres and spend $100 million to build a LA Fitness, hotels, new homes, and parking spaces. The warehouse and other self-storage buildings in the area were slated to be demolished by the end of this year or early next year, followed constructions which would aim to see the first new buildings open in late 2018 or early 2019.

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Reassessing the fire risk

MCB observed that it would have to reassess how the fire will affect its plans going forward into the holiday season. Even if the project is temporarily delayed by the news of the fire, redevelopment elsewhere in the city of East Baltimore will proceed as was previously planned. Other projects include a $20 million project in Coppin Heights as well as a plan by Costco to redevelop 575,000 acres in Owing Mills. While developers promise to bring economic benefits which will revitalize Baltimore, gentrification in cities like Washington D.C. has left others concerned about whether the underprivileged will be allowed to thrive in the new Baltimore.

There has been little word on what progress MCB has made in the Yard 56 development since the March announcement was made earlier.