First Major Phase of Port Covington Development Breaks Ground

| May 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

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.

Weller said 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.

The 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 groundbreaking 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 neighbors, 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 groundbreaking 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 neighborhood, 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 groundbreaking 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.”

Renderings courtesy of Weller Development Company

Overhead shot courtesy of Google Maps

Chapter 1 Site plan courtesy of Weller Development Company

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