Chapter 1 of Port Covington to Include 3 Million Sq. Ft. of Office, Retail, Residential, and Hotel Properties

| September 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development Company and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group are underway on a 235-acre redevelopment of Port Covington and have now released detailed plans for the first major phase of construction which it will call Chapter 1. This chapter will tackle the eastern section of Port Covington in the grass lots just east of The Baltimore Sun’s Sun Park along E. Cromwell St. and will have 3.025 million sq. ft. of new buildings. These will include office, retail, and residential properties, along with a hotel.

The team from Weller Development, which is leading the development and construction, met with the media on Wednesday to provide details of Chapter 1, outline the first buildings that will be constructed, and give an overview of the progress that’s been made in Port Covington.

The majority of the Chapter 1 development will border E. Cromwell St. and will be centered around the Sagamore Spirit Distillery complex that includes Rye Street Tavern. Weller Development President Marc Weller said that the block shapes should remain the same, but the buildings and density could vary depending on demand and the evolution of the project.

On the southeast side of E. Cromwell St. on the Patapsco River waterfront, Sagamore Spirit will be joined by two apartment buildings that will eventually replace Tidewater Yacht Service, some low-rise retail adjacent to Sagamore Spirit, and a couple office buildings with retail. The shoreline will also be the future home of East Waterfront Park, which is partially in place now but will eventually include a large promenade, paths, an eco park, and redeveloped piers. East Waterfront will mostly likely be built in phases.

Weller noted that the replacement of Tidewater would be later in the Chapter 1. “The way we look at that, they have a successful business that they are running over there,” he said.

On the northwest side of E. Cromwell St., four new mixed-use office buildings will surround the Rye Street Market project which is expected to break ground next year. Rye Street Market is a multi-block, mixed-used development highlighted by a large food market sharing the same name. The market will be on the first floor of a block that will have four different buildings connected by a courtyard. This block will bring 242,000 sq. ft. of office space and retail. The second block just to the southeast will feature two residential apartment buildings that will include about 260 apartments in 277,000 sq. ft.

The buildings in Rye Street Market will be up to seven stories in height. The food market will have a rooftop deck that overlooks the Patapsco River. Weller Development is also considering a rooftop bar at Rye Street Market.

Weller Development expects the food market at Rye Street Market to be a mix of farmer’s market-type goods, prepared food stalls, and maker spaces for small food manufacturing businesses. Weller said the market fills a need for more amenities in Port Covington.

Weller Development expects to begin construction on the new buildings in late 2019 with Rye Street Market opening in late 2020 or early 2021.

The team expects to announce committed tenants to Rye Street Tavern in the “very near future.”

When asked about bringing new apartments to South Baltimore, an area of the city that has seen more than 1,500 new luxury apartments come online in the past year, the team at Weller Development remained confident.

“There’s a lot of apartments, but we’re pretty bullish on the apartment market here. More importantly, our delivery is going into 2021 which is several years out and it’s a big difference in where the market is today. A lot of the new units coming up will be absorbed by then. I think access to I-95, waterfront, access to the city, access to the airport; all those things add up to a successful apartment building,” said Weller.

Behind the proposed row of new buildings on the norhwest side of E. Cromwell St. is The Baltimore Sun’s Sun Park, as well as a triangular piece of land. This land is the proposed site of a pocket park, a 156,000 sq. ft. hotel, and a 252,000 sq. ft. residential complex comprised of two buildings. These properties will be connected by a new street that is described as more of a “heavy lifting” street as opposed to E. Cromwell that will be more of an avenue.

A portion of Sun Park is currently under renovation as The Baltimore Sun has consolidated its Baltimore operations and headquarters into the facility, relocating 300 employees from its now-former Downtown property. The team made the move in recent weeks, but work continues on the property, including the addition of new parking lots on the northern and southern side of Sun Park. A new street, Purple Street, is also under construction to add a new access point to Sun Park and to keep much of the truck traffic going to the printing presses off of the eastern part of E. Cromwell St.

In the Port Covington Master Plan, Sun Park is replaced by tall buildings and a new public park, but The Baltimore Sun currently has a “long-term lease” on the facility. Weller noted his team’s excitement to have the extra employees of The Baltimore Sun in Port Covington. “That’s just a very exciting thing for us to have here,” he said. “To have 300 give or take employees coming is a very exciting thing for the site because it’s more people down here using the waterfront, bikes trails, and existing restaurants.”

The team from Weller Development noted that building heights will be staggered. The tallest buildings will be farthest away from the water and near I-95, and the lower rise buildings will be constructed closer to the water. This is being done to give all buildings in Chapter 1 views of the Patapsco River.

Weller said that his team is working with OJ Brigance’s Brigrance Brigade to make sure that handicap accessibility to the site is above what the law provides and that the site is “more accessible than anywhere else.”

Weller Development will be using Baltimore City-issued Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bonds to pay for much the new infrastructure in Port Covington. This includes curbs, streets, sewers, gutters, and fiber. The company is currently working through approvals with the City and expects to receive the first issuance of bonds in the first half of next year which will lead to infrastructure work for Chapter 1 getting started.

The project was approved for $534,795,000 in TIF bonds from Baltimore City in 2016. These bonds will be issued in phases.

“We are open for business. We have a plan, we have a schedule” said Weller. “Leasing activity has been very robust and it energizes us to take the first steps.” He noted there have been a “tremendous” amount of inbound leasing calls from companies that are inside the city, outside the city, and some outside of Maryland.

The team at Weller Development said the market will drive the additional phases of Chapter 1 and noted a large office lease with a company could speed up the pace of office construction.

The $5.5-billion Port Covington master plan includes Under Armour’s 50-acre, 3.9 million sq. ft. global headquarters 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.

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.

Weller Development is also planning a walking/cycling bridge from the 1900 block of Light St. that would go over the CSX train track and under the I-95 bridges and land near Sun Park. It is also rebuilding the Spring Garden Bridge for pedestrians to connect Westport to Port Covington. The company is also looking to work with adjacent lander owners and the City to create better pedestrian crossing along E. McComas St. which separates Port Covington from Locust Point and Key Hwy.

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 the Baltimore Yacht Basin marina and Nick’s Fish House. 

The Port Covington 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.

“Look at Port Covington from where we’ve started,” said Weller. “It’s been the better part of three years now. We started with a fairly vacant and unknown site and we’ve now officially put it on the map. Nick’s went from kind of a sleepy low-key restaurant to really a booming waterfront place. I think I always talk about Nick’s because it’s such a great example of the power of the waterfront. Rye Street Tavern is really the same thing. Rye Street Tavern has done such an unbelievable job just bringing people down to the waterfront. City Garage has been a great project for us as well.”

When asked about the timing of the properties on the west side of Sun Park and also the west side of S. Hanover St., Weller said, “We believe that a lot can happen. We’ve always thought this site would have multiple partners and multiple projects going on at one time. Obviously we are focused on and leading with this portion of it (Chapter 1), but we’ve had significant interest on the far side of Hanover already regarding other projects.”

Weller Development recently gave the former 97,000 sq. ft. Schuster Concrete a face lift and is hoping to use the building to host events starting next year.

Phase I of Under Armour’s new 50-acre campus was expected to get underway last year, but officials from Under Armour have not set a timeline for the beginning of construction.

The current site

Renderings courtesy of Weller Development 

Concept rendering from Weller Development of the entire Port Covington Master Plan 

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Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. 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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