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Sale of Port Covington properties to Sagamore allows Aquarium to pay off $5M loan

The developers of the Port Covington project had been engaged in negotiations for several months with a subsidiary of the National Aquarium to acquire three parcels of land. (File photo)

The developers of the Port Covington project had been engaged in negotiations for several months with a subsidiary of the National Aquarium to acquire three parcels of land. (File photo)

A subsidiary of the National Aquarium sold its Port Covington properties — obtained from Baltimore about a decade ago — to a developer, and collected $2.97 million more than it paid, according to state property records.

Previously, the organization and former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration told news media that purchase agreements prevented the Center for Aquatic Life Conservation Inc. from profiting from the sale of the formerly city-owned land. The parcels became the subject of speculation about a potential sale because of Sagamore Development Co.’s plans for a massive redevelopment of the area.

Sagamore on Tuesday, confirmed it purchased properties at 2400 Clarkson St., 101 W. Cromwell St. and 2300 S. Hanover St. previously owned by the Center for Aquatic Life and Conservation Inc.

The center initially purchased the properties with the intention of creating a park with public access to the waterfront and a new animal care facility for the National Aquarium. Those plans were abandoned following the 2008 financial crisis. A new animal care facility is currently under construction in a building the National Aquarium purchased in late 2015 in the city’s Jonestown neighborhood.

The National Aquarium issued a statement on Wednesday night stating it did not profit from the sale of the land in accordance with an agreement with Baltimore. The sales price allowed the organization to pay off what was left of a $5 million loan from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority And Fund for a project that never came to full fruition.

“Since CALC acquired the site in 2007, the Aquarium has carried out remediation of the waterfront land, creating a public park known as West Covington Park. Per the terms of the original agreement with Baltimore City, the Aquarium is prohibited from profiting from the sale of this property. Upon sale of the land, the Aquarium paid back the MEDAAF loan granted in 2007 in support of the development of the property,” according to the statement.

According to the National Aquarium, the full $5 million had been disbursed and $4.87 million of the loan needed to be  paid off. Those funds were used for brownfield mitigation and the construction of a public park.

Work at the park included the removal of contaminated soil under EPA guidelines, landscaping and a parking lot. Other improvements at the site include a fishing pier, storm water drainage and interpretive signs that explained the history of the location.  The organization also invested $3 million in staff and resources in the remediation and creation of the park.

Records show the National Aquarium subsidiary sold the Clarkson Street property for $1.3 million in December after acquiring the roughly four acres of land from the city in 2007 for $1.5 million. But the seven acres on Cromwell Street it purchased from Baltimore for $148,000 in 2007 sold for $3.32 million in December. State tax records have not recorded the sale of the roughly one acre of property at 2300 S. Hanover St. that the city sold to the aquarium subsidiary for $13,000 in 2007.

The sale of the properties doesn’t come as a surprise. In April, Sagamore and the center’s negotiations were revealed in the developer’s application for $660 million in public financing for its planned $5.5 billion mixed-use development.

Sagamore, which is backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, proposes a massive mixed-use redevelopment on roughly 260 acres of mostly vacant industrial land on the south Baltimore peninsula.

The developer intends to build 13,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and roughly 200 hotel rooms on the property during the next 20 years. Under Armour, independently, intends to build a 3.9-million-square-foot global headquarters at Port Covington as well.

“This transaction is part of Sagamore’s overall vision for the redevelopment of Port Covington, a multi-year project that will create jobs, build green spaces and parks, preserve public access to the waterfront and bring significant long-term economic benefit to the City of Baltimore, the state and the region. Sagamore and CALC have cooperated together to undergo the required approval processes for the acquisition with the City and State,” Marc Weller, Sagamore Development president, said in a statement.

Sagamore issued the same statement last spring when the negotiations were revealed.

(This story was updated to reflect information provided by the National Aquarium after the initial story was posted.)

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