Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has never been accused of being conservative in setting goals for his Baltimore-based athletic apparel company.
The master plan for the company’s proposed global headquarters campus in Port Covington, which is being presented to the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel on Thursday, reflects those ambitions.
“We are looking at establishing what’s called a high-performance campus,” said Neil Jurgens, Under Armour’s vice president of corporate real estate, during a briefing with reporters Wednesday. “Because this campus really needs to reflect the brand and culture of Under Armour.”
Plans for the 50-acre campus include 3.9 million square feet of space completed in four building stages that could to take up to 20 years to build-out. The plans involve constructing a lake on the property, building three office towers and a stadium with seating for between 5,000 and 12,000 spectators.
Tower heights are expected to be between 350 and 450-feet, but they’ll be tall enough to be seen from Interstate 95, and provide the campus a sense of presence as “iconic” pieces of architecture.
The first phase of the project is expected to be complete in about four-to-five years. That phase involves a garage with 1,500 spaces and 500,000 square feet, including two buildings and high bay facility with a landscaped top.
Under Armour’s growth as a company will drive how fast the following phases of the project are built. The firm, which employs about 1,800 people locally, is hiring about 300 employees a year.
“Informed master planning is done in such a way you can do it in phases to again, work with the growth of the company and not over build it,” Jurgens said.
The project represents a multibillion-dollar investment and a vision of 10,000 Under Armour employees working at the campus when it’s complete. The company also projects its campus will support another 12,000 Baltimore area jobs.
“We see this as transforming the city, we see this as transforming Under Armour,” Jurgens said.
Architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the master plan. The firm previously guided corporate campuses for Disney and Pixar. It’s also worked on Apple’s flagship Manhattan store.
“What’s extraordinary about this, and what I think will do a lot for this company’s sense of itself, but more importantly for Baltimore… is no one has done an urban East Coast industrial city specimen like this before,” said Frank Grauman, principal at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. “That’s a model that’s going to attract worldwide attention.”
The campus design intends to show a connection between Under Armour and the gritty, industrial history of Port Covington while keeping in mind the area has a tradition as a recreation area.
Under Armour representatives on Wednesday emphasized their commitment to retaining public access to the waterfront surrounding the proposed campus. The only real space available to the public now is Ferry Bar Park at the southern most tip of the Port Covington peninsula.
“But one of the components we’ve looked at is developing a concept that provides public access around the perimeter of this campus, and it gives people access to water they do not have today,” Jurgens said.
During the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel’s review of the master plan members were critical of the proposed access to Ferry Bar Park. They were especially concerned about vehicular access to the public space from West Peninsula Drive and how that would interact with any possible future development of the NGK-Locke facility.
“It seems like there’s less access than there was before.” panelist Paulina Ilieva said.
The campus design is also intended to be environmentally friendly. A major innovation in design calls for using water from the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River to help cool the campus buildings. The water will then be put through a “vegetative polishing” process to clean it before its returned to the river.
“What we’re trying to do is help clean up the Middle Branch and help make it swimmable again,” Jurgens said.
Plank’s real estate development firm, Sagamore Development Co., has proposed a massive, multibillion-dollar mixed-use development to the north, across East Cromwell Street, from where the Under Armour campus is proposed. But the campus is an independent project pursued by Under Armour.
It’s undecided whether Under Amrour will purchase or lease the land it intends to build on from Sagamore.
Some projects at Port Covington are completed or under construction.
Sagamore refurbished an old city bus depot into an innovation hub called City Garage. Sagamore Spirit also broke ground last year on a 22,000-square-foot distillery; a 27,000-square-foot processing center; visitor’s center; tasting room; restaurant; and 120-foot water tower adjacent to the proposed Under Armour campus.
Under Armour has already opened one office on the site. It transformed a former Sam’s Club into a 170,000-square-foot modern office building. It opened on Jan. 11 and will eventually house between 600 and 700 employees.
The company has not yet decided what will happen with its current home at Tide Point, and all options are still on the table.