Covington History – Port Covington, Baltimore in Maryland
Official Geographical Location:
Port Covington is a developing district in the Riverside neighbourhood of Baltimore, Maryland.
Previously, Port Covington was a railroad terminal built by the Western Maryland Railway in 1904 on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. The terminal facilities included coal, grain and merchandise piers, overhead cranes, 11 rail yards, warehouses, a roundhouse, a turntable and a machine shop. In the 1920s rotary dumpers for coal and coke were installed, as well as a large grain elevator. Port operations ended in the 1970s and the site was abandoned in 1988.
Port Covington around 1913
The Western Maryland Railway Port Covington Coal Pier was one of the last railroad, coal unloading piers in Baltimore. During the Pier's operational life (1921-1974), it went from representing the state-of-the-art in east coast coal unloading facilities to complete obsolescence. The Coal Pier's capacity to rapidly unload large quantities of coal into ships, which resulted from a combination of two types of dumpers, made the Western Maryland Railway, and in turn the Port of Baltimore, a major competitor for the transportation of coal from eastern coal fields. The Coal Pier was thus an important part of the history of development of the Port of Baltimore.
In the mid-1980s, the city had envisioned the area as a future home to about 3 million square feet of offices, with a hotel and some retail. But the office market faltered, and those plans never materialized. About 60 acres were subsequently sold for The Sun's printing plant, which opened in 1992
The site has
since been redeveloped for commercial use, and it currently includes a former
Walmart store that opened in 2002 and closed in January 2016. Interstate 95
serves Port Covington through Exits 54 (Hanover Street) and 55 (Key Highway);
through this area, McComas Street serves as a frontage road between the two
exits and continues east into the Locust Point neighbourhood.
In January 2016, plans were unveiled by Sagamore Development Company, owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, regarding the redevelopment of Port Covington in South Baltimore. The new plan for Port Covington calls for two proposed new light rail stations, along with new residential and commercial development. The first station would be located west of Hanover Street, and the other would be located at the intersection of East McComas Street and East Cromwell Street, just south of Federal Hill. This proposed extension would create a new spur from the Central Light Rail line by crossing the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River south of Interstate 95. Additional features of the proposed redevelopment include a new entertainment venue, new waterfront park areas, makerspace, as well as new offices for Under Armour and other industries owned by Kevin Plank.
Sagamore Development has requested $1.1 billion in federal, state and municipal government financing, including $535 million in tax increment financing (TIF) from the City of Baltimore. The proposed TIF is the largest ever proposed in Baltimore, and would be one of the largest TIFs in the country. According to the Baltimore Sun, MuniCap projects that the Port Covington properties owned by Sagamore would be worth $2,608,900,706 at full build out
Some local residents are concerned with the adverse environmental impact the project will have on an already unstable region
Other Baltimoreans are concerned that the economic impact of the development will only benefit a segment of the population, leaving behind the city's poorer, economically depressed communities. At an August 2016 city council work session to discuss the potential project, tempers brewed. A local clergy member and community organizer said, "The city really should not be in the business of subsidizing affluent enclaves, especially one year after the unrest." An attorney for Sagamore Development reportedly bristled, and later offered that the project, which would include "world class" kayak facilities, would be available to the black community as well: "I’m fairly sure that African-Americans kayak too." Another pastor and community activist shouted in response, "This is for rich white people! You want it, you pay for it yourself!"
groups have called for public financing to be linked to guarantees for a public
profit-sharing agreement and financing for schools to cover potential loss of
$315 million in funding over 40 years for Baltimore schools. Advocates have
also called for more affordable housing as part of the development, and
lowering the size of the proposed TIF to cover only required infrastructure
development, not additional amenities such as kayak landings
First Major Phase of Port Covington Development Breaks Ground by Kevin Lynch, May 13, 2019
The Port Covington Development Team broke ground today on Chapter 1 of the 235-acre, $5.5-billion, multi-decade Port Covington Development. Chapter 1 is the first major phase of development for the Port Covington Development and will be completed over several years. The approximately $700-million phase is planned to include approximately 1.38 million sq. ft. of office, 337,450 sq. ft. of retail, 976,667 sq. ft. of residential, and 285,000 sq. ft. of hotel space across more than 12 city blocks.
The Port Covington Development Team is comprised of owners Kevin Plank’s Plank Industries and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. Weller Development Company is leading the development and construction. The general contractor is Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and STV Inc. is the engineer of record.
Chapter 1 will take place on the eastern section of Port Covington along E. Cromwell St. in a large grass lot adjacent to The Baltimore Sun’s Sun Park. Across E. Cromwell St. is Sagamore Spirit Distillery and Rye Street Tavern, which first opened two years ago. Construction fencing with Port Covington branding is currently surrounding much of the Chapter 1 site.
Weller Development will begin mass grading the dirt on the site this month. Basic utilities work will then start in the fall, followed by vertical building construction. Work will also begin later this year to realign E. Cromwell St., giving it a straight northeast orientation whereas it currently bends north. Work on E. Cromwell St. will also take place in a portion of the Tidewater Yacht Service property. Marc Weller, Founding Partner of Weller Development Company and lead developer of Port Covington, noted there will be some future road closures for about a year as the infrastructure work is underway.
there will be a reorganization of the Tidewater Yacht Service property, but a
marina will remain on the site.
Weller Development will be using Baltimore City-issued Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bonds to pay for much the new infrastructure in Port Covington, but since the first round of bond funds will likely not be released to Weller Development until next January, the Port Covington Development team will be paying for this infrastructure work with its own equity. It will then be paid back with the bonds.
“We are willing to put in our own equity into the project to see it get started and not wait for the bond issue,” said Weller.
The project was approved for $534,795,000 in TIF bonds from Baltimore City in 2016. These bonds will be issued in phases
The first building construction will be a four-building project called Rye Street Market on block E7. Rye Street Market will total 275,000 sq. ft., including 185,000 sq. ft. of office space, a 13,000 sq. ft. open-air market and food hall inspired by Baltimore’s historic neighborhood markets, 50,000 sq. ft. of pedestrian-oriented retail, a 12,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art meeting facility, and a 15,000 sq. ft. rooftop event space overlooking the Patapsco River.
Rye Street Market will start construction before the end of the year. It is expected to open in Fall 2021.
Shortly after starting construction on Rye Street Market, the Port Covington Development Team plans to deliver nearly 1 million sq. ft. of additional development by early 2022. This includes a 300,000 sq. ft. office building with 20,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail in early 2022, along with three residential properties that will include more than 500 apartments. The apartments will include extended stay, market rate, and affordable housing units. The residential properties will have approximately 55,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail.
Including Rye Street Market, Weller Development has presented plans for eight buildings at Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP).
JLL has been tapped to lease the office space at Port Covington. The Port Covington Development Team says the project will “feature several key ecosystems focused on technology, life sciences, and education.”
Port Covington has been dubbed Cyber Town USA by Mike Janke of DataTribe. Janke is relocating his cyber startup studio from Fulton, MD to Port Covington during the first phase of Chapter 1. DataTribe is joined by AllegisCyber and Evergreen Advisors as the first three announced companies for Chapter 1.
Weller said office leasing is going well and that they have seven tenants lined up as well as 15 other “highly-likely” prospects. He said they are beginning the process of getting retail commitments.
The Port Covington master plan includes a 50-acre, 3.9-million sq. ft. global headquarters for Under Armour at the former Port Covington Shopping Center; 1,500,000 sq. ft. of destination, attraction, entertainment, and specialty retail; 500,000 sq. ft. of “maker” and industrial/light manufacturing space; 200-plus hotel rooms; 1,500,000 sq. ft. of office space (in addition to the Under Armour Global Headquarters); and civic and cultural uses including 40-plus acres of public parks, a public waterfront, and other public facilities. It also includes more than 7,500 residential units, which could total up to 14,000 units comprised of rental and for-sale properties at various price-points, and potential sites for a post office, school, library, fire station, police paddock, and cultural center. The development includes 2.5 miles of waterfront along the Middle Branch.
Already completed at Port Covington in Phase 1A is City Garage, which redeveloped an existing building in 2015 into a 133,000 sq. ft. office building that is “a hub for manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship;” Building 37, which converted the former Sam’s Club into a 170,000 sq. ft. Under Armour office building and amenity space; 240 W. Dickman St., which underwent some renovations and is now the home to workforce development non-profits; and the four-building Sagamore Spirit whiskey distillery which includes Rye Street Tavern, and renovations to the Baltimore Yacht Basin marina and Nick’s Fish House.
Last year, The Baltimore Sun Media Group renovated its Sun Park facility and relocated its approximately 300 employees who work in areas such as journalism, sales, circulation, finance, human resources, and marketing to Port Covington. Sun Park was previously just a printing facility.
Port Covington Development Team has also made public space improvements which
include landscaped medians, taking over maintenance of West Covington Park
where it added outdoor bar South Point, a new mural, and adding new off-street
and on-street bike and pedestrian paths.
Reactions to today’s ground-breaking include: “The Port Covington of today is a completely different place than what it was just a few short years ago, and we are just getting started,” said Weller. “The progress to date couldn’t have happened without the tremendous support and dedication from our elected officials and their staffs, community leaders, our South Baltimore neighbours, our investment partners and the entire development team. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I couldn’t be more thankful to all those running with us and cheering us on.”
“On behalf of Baltimore City, I would like to congratulate the entire Port Covington team on their hard work to date and tremendous progress thus far,” said Mayor of Baltimore Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “Today’s ground-breaking is about more than just this one development or one community. It is symbolic of what’s in store for Baltimore’s economic future: more momentum, more jobs, more opportunity for our residents and our local workforce.”
“As lieutenant governor, and as a Marylander, it is truly wonderful to see how the Port Covington development has grown and progressed over time,” said Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “As a public/private partnership, this community serves as an excellent example of what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors work together.”
“Port Covington is exactly the type of smart, thoughtful redevelopment we need to put South Baltimore back on the map,” Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said. “This project will add thousands of new jobs, create park land and open space where an environmental wasteland once stood, and provide affordable housing for more families. And it’s going to create a domino-effect of economic wins for the entire city and region.”
“Today’s kickoff of Port Covington Chapter 1b is an exciting opportunity as we continue to see progress on the second largest urban development project in the nation,” said Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello. “As we continue to build Baltimore City’s newest neighbourhood, we will build more economic opportunity for residents of our entire City.”
“I am excited to celebrate the official first step in the realization of a longstanding dream for Baltimore,” Congressman Elijah Cummings said. “Port Covington can help us change the future of our beloved City and create opportunities that will positively impact generations yet unborn.”
“The South Baltimore 7 (“SB7) Coalition has had the opportunity to work as a partner and trusted advisor to the Port Covington team since the beginning. As chairman of SB7, I take pride in knowing that Port Covington will deliver on its promises, as they have already done time and time again, to the surrounding area and its residents. This ceremonial ground-breaking marks the start of a new chapter that I’m excited to see come to fruition. We will all continue working together to deliver a Port Covington community that is inclusive, prosperous, and impactful for local residents, local business and our local workforce,” said Michael Middleton, Cherry Hill resident and Chairman of the South Baltimore 7 (“SB7”) Coalition. The SB7 Coalition is an organization that represents the South Baltimore communities of Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mt. Winans, Westport and Port Covington.
“With each milestone, Port Covington further solidifies itself as a model for large scale community development and proof of what happens when leaders from local neighborhoods, the public sector, and businesses all work together towards a common goal,” said Margaret Anadu, Managing Director and Head of Urban Investment Group, Goldman Sachs. “We continue to be proud partners in this transformative project and optimistic investors in the future of Baltimore.”
“Transformation begins with a grand vision and leads to lifelong opportunities,” said Terrell Williams, BUILD organizer and Turnaround Tuesday Co-Director. “We are proud to be a partner in turning the vision we all share for the Port Covington development into those lifelong opportunities.
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