Md. businesses, developers delay events amid COVID-19 concerns

Marc Weller, founding partner of Weller Development Co., said the latest round of construction at Port Covington expects to cost $700 million. The first buildings are expected to be delivered in the fall of 2021. (The Daily Record / Adam Bednar)

Marc Weller, founding partner of Weller Development Co., said the company does not believe the coronavirus will affect construction of the first segment of its Port Covington project. (The Daily Record / Adam Bednar)

As efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus in Maryland increase, businesses are delaying events in order to restrict the spread of the respiratory illness.

Maryland businesses and developers, such as Port Covington builder Weller Development Co., already have started canceling events.

Weller delayed plans to host a ceremonial opening Monday for the Port Covington Impact Village, which is part of the planned overhaul of the south Baltimore peninsula. Marc Weller, the firm’s founder, said the company does not anticipate coronavirus delays affecting construction of the “first chapter” of the $5.5 billion project but postponed the ribbon-cutting out of an abundance of caution.

“Due to recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and government officials, and out of an abundance of caution, we decided to postpone the large community gathering and event to celebrate the ribbon-cutting for the Port Covington Impact Village. We will continue to follow the advice of the experts and reschedule the event at the appropriate time. We don’t anticipate any impact to construction, but we will monitor and comply with all health and safety guidelines issued,” Weller said in a statement.

Seawall Development said Monday it’s delaying a call for Lexington Market vendor applications. The company had hoped to start the process for soliciting bids from merchants interested in operating a business in the new $40 million market shed that broke ground last month.

The vendor selection process planned by the firm focused on selecting a diverse group of businesses to operate at the market. In order to accomplish that goal Seawall has partnered with Baltimore Development Corp. to help potential merchants submit vendor applications. But those efforts involved hosting information sessions and workshops ahead of the June 5 application deadline.

A spokeswoman for Seawall said that in considering national and state guidelines, as well as the impact on Maryland’s restaurant industry from the coronavirus outbreak, the developers decided to delay seeking applications from vendors.

Downtown Partnership of Baltimore has also decided to delay its annual State of Downtown Breakfast initially slated for March 26. The organization, which advocates for issues surrounding the city’s core business district and provides supplemental services, generally releases its report outlining the state of downtown businesses and development in conjunction with the event.

Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, according to spokesman Michael Evitts, still intends to issue the report this spring, although it’s unknown exactly when it will be released.

“That will depend a lot on circumstances surrounding the virus,” Evitts wrote in an email.

Meanwhile state and local governments have declared emergency statuses and issued orders in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball declared a state of emergency and ordered the mall in Columbia closed for seven days.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young also issued a series of executive actions, including ordering the Department of Housing and Community Development to halt accepting permit applications in-person. The city of Frederick suspended all public meetings for the rest of the month.

A group of 100 activists groups and businesses also issued a letter to Maryland leaders requesting they enact 10 measures to help protect residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. The list of demand includes removing barriers to unemployment benefits, ceasing debt collection activities and expanding sick leave.

“Adequate preparedness requires an effective safety net for vulnerable populations. To meet this emergency, State leaders must change ‘business as usual’ in Maryland’s administrative and judicial systems,” said a letter signed by groups, including ACLU of Maryland, Community Development Network of Maryland and various unions.

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