The Port Covington development team broke ground on Wednesday for the vertical construction of the neighborhood’s next leg, which will consist of 1.1 million square feet of office, retail, residential and parking space, in a hybrid virtual and in-person ceremony.
This phase of the project, which cost $650 million, was fully financed as of January 2021, including $137 million that came from Tax Increment Financing bonds for infrastructure work and $150 million that came from Opportunity Zone funds.
Speakers at the event celebrated the estimated tens of thousands of jobs that the project will bring into the city, as well as the project’s Memorandum of Understanding with the city and its Community Benefits Agreement with a coalition of the neighborhoods that surround the Port Covington project, called the South Baltimore Seven.
In total, Port Covington has already provided $9 million to the neighborhood coalition and more than $19 million in total towards the community benefits agreement. All told, $135 million is slated to go towards workforce education, affordable housing, workforce and economic development and community benefits in the coming years.
Among the speakers were representatives of the project’s lead investors, Under Armor Chairman Kevin Plank of Sagamore Ventures and Margaret Anadu of Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.
“What we are celebrating today is the fruit of your partnership and visionary leadership and I’m grateful for both,” Plank told the stakeholders gathered at the site, which included government leaders as well as those on the Port Covington development team and Mike Middleton, the chairman of the South Baltimore Seven coalition.
Plank reminisced about the groundbreaking of his distillery, Sagamore Spirit, which was the first building to arrive in Port Covington five years ago, calling it the “spark” that launched the growth of the neighborhood.
He also called back to the opening of UA House, an Under Armor-funded education, play and career development center operated by the nonprofit Living Classrooms. He played footage of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings speaking at UA House’s opening, where he applauded the project for improving the lives of Baltimore’s children and celebrated the city’s diversity.
Both Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore city Councilman Eric Costello, a fervent advocate for local Baltimore businesses, spoke live at the event, commending the project for bringing jobs into the area and hopefully opening up the city to increased economic regrowth in the years after the pandemic.
Several other politicians spoke to the crowd virtually, including Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
“This is a big deal … all the jobs we’re going to provide. I couldn’t be more excited,” Hogan said. “A vibrant Maryland depends on a strong Baltimore city.”
The project has committed to hiring locally as well as to contracting minority- and women-owned businesses. Presently, contractors are require to hire the majority of new employees working on the Port Covington project from within the city. At the completion of the development, the development team expects at least 30% of on-site employees to be city residents.
Chapter 1B is slated to begin delivering in late 2022. This phase of the project will include 440,000 square feet of office space, 116,000 square feet of retail space, over 1,000 parking spots and 586,000 square feet of residential space, totaling 537 residential units, 89 of which will be affordable housing. Among completion of Chapter 1B, 20% of the development’s residential units will be affordable dwelling units.
At full completion, Port Covington is planned to include up to 18 million square feet of new development.
The 235-acre, $5.5 billion redevelopment project, which has been called one of the largest underway in the United States, currently houses The Baltimore Sun and several other businesses and nonprofits. Construction on the development’s first phase began in 2019, but was halted in 2020 due to safety concerns amidst the coronavirus pandemic.