Port Covington Master Plan Receives Unanimous Approval from Planning Commission

| June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Baltimore City Planning Department’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the 260-acre Sagamore Development Master Plan last evening. This follows the recommendation by the staff of the Planning Department to approve the plan.

The plan includes Under Armour’s 50-acre, 3.9 million sq. ft. global headquarters; 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. Sagamore has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the city to provide affordable housing in 10% of the units. The plan also includes potential sites for a post office, school, library, fire station, police paddock, and cultural center.

Sagamore currently owns 161 acres of land in Port Covington, which it described as 85% of the private parcels in the area, from recent real estate acquisitions totaling $114 million.

For transportation and infrastructure Sagamore is planning a Light Rail spur from Westport; redevelopment of Hanover St., McComas St., and Cromwell St.; I-95 on-ramp and off-ramp modifications; pedestrian/bike bridges from South Baltimore and Westport; bike share stations; three water taxi stops; and a site circulator that could be rail or bus. This plan, which includes $534,795,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from Baltimore City, will still need to be approved by the Baltimore City Council and Mayor.

The project is expected to take more than 20 years to complete.

We are pleased that the Baltimore City Planning Commission has approved the master plan for Port Covington and we are extremely grateful for the thoughtful feedback we have received throughout the process, from the Baltimore City Planning Department, the Planning Commission and members of the city’s esteemed Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel,” said David P. Manfredi, founding principal of Elkus Manfredi Architects and the lead architect for the Port Covington redevelopment.

“We’re excited and humbled to be a part of building something great in this City and proud that Baltimore is home to one of the largest urban renewal projects in America right now,” added Marc Weller, president of Sagamore Development. “This master plan will serve as our blueprint as we work with the City of Baltimore and its community members to transform Port Covington, support the continued growth of Under Armour in the city, and deliver tens of thousands of much-needed jobs, new businesses, 42 acres of public parks, and more. Since we first presented our plans to revitalize Port Covington, the city’s planning officials have been incredibly helpful. We look forward to working closely in the months and years to come with the Planning Department, Planning Commission and UDARP, moving forward together on this one-of-a-kind opportunity to transform an underutilized industrial area into a thriving, active and inclusive waterfront neighborhood and economic center.”

The plan received overwhelming support at the public hearing on June 2nd, including support from the Cherry Hill Community Coalition the SB6, a coalition of Cherry Hill, Westport, Mt. Winans, Lakeland, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay – the six South Baltimore neighborhoods south of the Middle Branch. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, the Lakeland Coalition, the Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Association, and many other attendees who testified and attended the hearing also expressed support. Two attendees at the hearing raised their hands in opposition and testified.

The South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA), directly adjacent to Port Covington, is currently holding meetings with Sagamore.

At yesterday’s two-plus hour hearing, testimony was heard both for and against the plan. Those against the plan voiced concerns that there were not enough details available and suggested not to move forward at this time. The Planning Commission contested those concerns telling the crowd this is the most detailed master plan they have seen. “More details will come, but the details we’ve seen so far have been tremendous, a standard we haven’t really seen in Baltimore,” said Planning Director Tom Stosur.

“I’ve never seen so much effort put into a Master Plan, they’ve had so many meeting at UDARP,” said Planning Department Chairman Wilbur Cunningham.

Sagamore presented plans about the development, the infrastructure, and ecology at six UDARP hearings this year. During the hearing, it was noted that the master plan will provide further guidelines on the uses of the various developments, blocks’ building heights, infrastructure, and more moving forward as details are finalized throughout the length of the development. The panel told the crowd that hearing their concerns will give Sagamore information for when they come back with more details for each individual project.

Barbara A. Samuels from the ACLU of Maryland stated the master plan’s jobs and housing would create another “white affluent enclave, making segregation worse.” This point was also contested by members of the Commission who insisted African Americans and individuals of all races would benefit from the jobs being created. In his closing statement, Commissioner Leon Pinkett said the plan is “an opportunity for Baltimoreans of all ethnicities.”

Concerns were also heard about the developments’ impact on other Baltimore neighborhoods described as also needing investment, as well as how the plan and the new residents it brings will impact Baltimore City Public School resources.

Michael Middleton of SB6 testified to show support for the plan and Elizabeth Degi Mount, Executive Director of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, was optimistic about the potential of the project saying that the group is excited to be in discussions with Sagamore and feels this is a good opportunity for affordable housing for families and workers of all skill levels.

Many others testified – for and against the project – and many letters from residents were read.

The meeting was filled with Port Covington supporters wearing yellow Port Covington shirts, groups of individuals in opposition, South Baltimore and city residents, and members of the media.

With approval of the master plan, Sagamore is hoping to obtain zoning approval in Quarter 2 of 2016 and approval of subdivision of the real estate and the infrastructure plan in Quarter 4 of 2016. Sagamore Development President Marc Weller said he hopes infrastructure improvements start in mid-2017, pad site development begins in mid-2018, and vertical real estate development begins in mid-2019.

There will be a public hearing on the TIF in July.

Rendering Courtesy of Sagamore Development 
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Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.