Baltimore Submits Proposal for Amazon Headquarters at Port Covington

| October 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

A media event was held today at City Garage in Port Covington to announce the delivery of Baltimore’s proposal for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America (Amazon HQ2) at Sagamore Development’s 235-acre Port Covington redevelopment project. The event was led by Bill Cole, president & CEO of Baltimore Development Corporation. He was joined by Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh; Special Advisor to the Governor Larry Hogan, Keiffer Mitchell; President of Sagamore Development Company Marc Weller; and Plank Industries Executive Creative Director Marcus Stephens. Plank Industries, the parent company of Sagamore Development, is owned by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank. The room was also filled with local politicians and business leaders.

The phrase said over and over today was “shovel ready.” Mayor Pugh, City Council President Jack Young, and others repeatedly mentioned that a potential Amazon HQ2 at Port Covington already has the tax incentives and zoning approvals to move forward. “Other cities don’t have that,” said City Council President Young.

Port Covington was approved for $534,795,000 in Tax Increment Financing Bonds to pay for infrastructure, parks, and ecology improvements in Port Covington.

Port Covington is also part of a Baltimore City Enterprise Zone, which provides a 10-year tax credit on real property improvements with the credit decreasing 10% in years 6-10. It also includes hiring tax credits for businesses within the district as well as 10-year Brownfield Tax Credits for properties that complete the Maryland Department of the Environment voluntary cleanup or corrective action plan.

Port Covington’s Master Plan was approved last year by Baltimore City, and the first round of major infrastructure improvements are projected to begin next year.

“With previously-approved tax increment financing, an already-approved flexible master plan, matter-of-right zoning, an established enterprise zone, an already-negotiated community benefits agreement, and city, state and community support, Port Covington is the largest shovel-ready, build to suit, technology-focused, environmentally friendly mixed-use redevelopment project in the country, all on a walkable, bike-able waterfront peninsula in the heart of a major city,” said Mayor Pugh in a letter to Amazon.

The State of Maryland will also be offering tax incentives to Amazon, but City and State officials were mum on those details. Saying they don’t want to give the competition a leg up, Mitchell said Governor Hogan would make an announcement about those incentives in the near future.

Some cities are offering unique gifts to Amazon, but Mayor Pugh noted that “there are no gifts, just a great proposal.”

Also included in the proposal was a creative package from Stephens, who is the former Senior Creative Director of Under Armour. A montage of “Baltimore” mentions in films and television was shown at the event, but few additional details were revealed about the package.

While speaking, Mayor Pugh highlighted Baltimore’s affordability, the site’s access to public transportation (a new light rail spur has been proposed for the site), highways, and its location just 10 minutes from BWI Airport. She also highlighted Baltimore’s arts, sports teams, startups, culture, and variety of housing stock. “This would have a transformational effect on Baltimore and the entire state of Maryland,” she said. “We have put out best foot forward, this is the place.”

Cole mentioned that there has been no stronger support than from Governor Hogan. Several other Maryland sites have submitted proposals and have the support of the State.

Stephens mentioned during his speech that Port Covington is a chance for Amazon to transform another piece of land, just like it did in South Lake Union in Seattle.

Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) is supporting Port Covington’s proposal. “This would be the largest economic boost I have seen in my long career in the public and private sector,” Don Fry, GBC president and CEO, told SouthBMore.com. He also noted that some member of GBC’s board have previous experience in dealings with Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos.

Amazon said the following in its RFP, “We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.”

Amazon’s Seattle headquarters features 33 buildings, 8.1 million sq. ft., 40,000 employees, and 24 restaurants/cafes according to the RFP. Amazon has paid $43 million into the Seattle public transportation and estimates it attracts 233,000 hotel nights by guests visiting Amazon and has created 53,000 additional jobs as a result of its investment.

Amazon will make an announcement about its HQ2 next year.

Already completed at Port Covington is City Garage, a 133,000 sq. ft. former garage facility which is fully leased and described as “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 is undergoing renovations and will be the home of workforce development non-profits, including CityWide Youth Development and Potential ME; and, the four-building Sagamore Spirit whiskey distilleryPhase I of Under Armour’s new 50-acre campus is expected to be the next major construction project in Port Covington. 

Other public space improvements including landscaping, a new mural, and on-street bicycle lanes have also been completed. Construction is also currently underway on a bike path.

For transportation and infrastructure, Sagamore is planning a light rail spur along McComas St. from Westport with three new stops; redevelopment of Hanover St., McComas St., and Cromwell St.; I-95 on-ramp and off-ramp modifications; bike share stations; three water taxi stops; and a site circulator that could be rail or bus. New on-street cycle lanes have already been installed in Port Covington.

Sagamore recently partnered with Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group on a $233-million investment in the project.

Mayor Pugh penned the following letter with the proposal:

Re: Port Covington-Amazon HQ2 Proposal

Baltimore. This. Must. Be. The. Place.

Amazon will have a great impact on the city chosen for Amazon HQ2, but that city will have a great impact on Amazon. The right city must have a talented workforce, a passion for innovation, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and environmentally-friendly and sustainable design. The city you choose will share Amazon’s culture and values; Amazon and its HQ2 city will share in each other’s momentum. Baltimore, as you will see, is a city on the rise like no other. When it comes to Amazon HQ2, I am confident you will agree ‘This Must Be the Place.’

Baltimore is located at the epicenter of talent, education and innovation, borne out of its strategic, central location in the heart of the Northeast Corridor of the United States, and decades of collaboration between government, private enterprise, academia, the military and venture capital. As port and rail traffic blends with fiber-optic connections, makerspaces and tech start-ups, Baltimore is the only city with the soul, grit, history and innovative spirit to lead the synergistic union of American commerce and technology for the 21st century.

Amazon’s ability to hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees and spend potentially $5 billion on capital investment can be about much more than a second headquarters. HQ2 can be, in the right place, a genuine opportunity for real impactful change. Establishing its headquarters in Baltimore, a majority African American city, is a profound public statement of Amazon’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and urban investment. HQ2 is a project that will transform the lives of one generation, while giving hope to the next, and permanently tie Amazon to the renaissance of one of America’s greatest working-class cities.

We invite you to join with us by bringing Amazon HQ2 to Baltimore City’s Port Covington, our shovel- ready, tech-forward, mixed-use redevelopment project already underway on our waterfront. Only at Baltimore City’s Port Covington can Amazon transform a major U.S. city, enact generational change, and do it on your own terms.

With previously-approved tax increment financing, an already-approved flexible master plan, matter-of- right zoning, an established enterprise zone, an already-negotiated community benefits agreement, and city, state and community support, Port Covington is the largest shovel-ready, build to suit, technology- focused, environmentally friendly mixed-use redevelopment project in the country, all on a walkable, bike-able waterfront peninsula in the heart of a major city. A virtual blank slate, Port Covington is the only site in the country where Amazon can create an innovative live/work/play experience from the ground up – one that will redefine what an urban corporate and retail campus can be. Port Covington’s design is based on and supported by state of the art technology and a data-driven effort to create a smart, connected and sustainable community that can predict consumer and employee needs . It is the only site that will allow Amazon to build a living laboratory focused on customer and user experience, and a valuable sandbox for Amazon’s technologies, products and vision.

Amazon will also have unparalleled access to a uniquely talented, diverse, and educated workforce, with particular concentration in STEM fields, in an area with a lower cost of living than most other urban or coastal cities. These workers fuel our innovative businesses and manufacturers, and are aided by world- class, multi-modal transit, shipping and distribution networks that quickly and efficiently connect people and goods to and from all over the area, country and the world. In that same spirit, Port Covington is designed to be accessible by rail, bus, water taxi, bike, trails, pedestrian pathways, car or other creative transit options, accommodating all who want to work, live or play in or around Baltimore City and Amazon HQ2. With expanded transit routes, additional stops, and integrated digital technology, Port Covington will connect workers to jobs and neighbors to neighborhoods in new and exciting ways. Like Amazon, Baltimore knows how to connect people, products and ideas in a fast-paced, global economy.

You will also find in Baltimore City’s Port Covington an opportunity to partner with those who are leading the way towards a future that is not just innovative, but inclusive – through actions, not just words. While other cities may aspire to renewal, our state and city have already doubled-down on our determination: Port Covington comes with a previously-approved $660 million tax increment financing package and the creation of an enterprise zone, as well as a historic community benefits agreement to ensure that Baltimore City’s neighborhoods share in the growth and opportunity from theproject.

This is an opportunity brimming with possibility, and I invite you to get to know Baltimore, the State of Maryland and Port Covington better as you make your decision. If Amazon can imagine it, Port Covington can deliver it. When it comes to Amazon HQ2, we’re confident you’ll agree this must be the place.

Renderings courtesy of Sagamore Development  (click to enlarge)

Renderings courtesy of Under Armour

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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