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New ownership team plans life sciences hub for City Garage

Formerly a Baltimore bus repair depot, the City Garage industrial space was originally built in 1965. It was renovated in 2015 and repositioned by Sagamore Ventures as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in Port Covington. Now, under a new ownership team, the facility hopes to become home to life science companies. (The Daily Record/File photo)

City Garage, an innovation space in Port Covington, will soon undergo major upheaval as it adopts a new ownership structure and anchor tenant Under Armour prepares to leave.

The space, which has been owned since 2015 by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Ventures, is now partially owned by Rockville real estate investor South Duvall, which plans to reimagine the space as a life sciences laboratory hub.

This process will begin by repurposing the approximately 67,000 square feet of space that UA Lighthouse, Under Armour’s center for design and manufacturing, will leave behind when it moves into the company’s upcoming global headquarters, currently being constructed at the southern end of Port Covington.

UA Lighthouse’s space in City Garage will be upgraded to include new utilities, back-up generators and other amenities valuable to life sciences companies, according to Matt Brown, South Duvall’s director of acquisitions. The finished laboratory space, which is set to be delivered in the spring or summer of next year, will be able to hold anywhere between one and five tenants. From there, the remainder of City Garage’s approximately 135,000 square foot space will be converted as other tenants in the building move out.

Brown hopes that the upgraded City Garage space will encourage life sciences companies born out of the city’s research institutions, like Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to keep their companies in Baltimore. Currently, the lack of laboratories in the Baltimore that can accommodate those business’s needs often leads them to move to other markets, taking with them jobs and opportunities.

“The story goes that these institutions have technologies and create spin-out companies and those spin-out companies go on to do great things, but those companies need a home,” he said. “Being able to provide a place for these great, high-tech companies to occupy … I think is extremely important for the growth of Baltimore’s economy.”

Brown believes City Garage will be especially attractive to life sciences companies in the area due to its location and the building’s unique amenities, such as its proximity to Interstate 95 and its waterfront views. The building’s owners are already looking for tenants to replace UA Lighthouse when it leaves the space sometime next year.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a press release that he is “thrilled” by the planned reimagining and that the new facility “strengthens Port Covington, and Baltimore as a whole, as a premier hub for life science research and technological innovation.”

South Duvall, which was founded in 2017, owns one other property in Maryland, in partnership with Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.: 704 Quince Orchard, an 80,000 square foot office space in Gaithersburg that was successfully converted to a biotechnology lab space. The building, which South Duvall finished leasing in 2020, provides lab space to several life sciences companies, including vaccine developer Novavax. The firm is currently under contract for another project in Rockville, but Brown declined to reveal the address.

South Duvall also did not disclose what percentage of City Garage it now owns.

Located at 101 W. Dickman Street, City Garage is in Port Covington, the $5.5 billion, 235-acre, mixed-use redevelopment project of Sagamore Ventures, Goldman Sachs and Weller Development Company. A 1.1 million-square-foot phase of the project, which cost $650 million and will include office, retail, residential and parking space, is under construction, with plans for buildings to begin delivering late next year.

City Garage, a former bus depot, was transformed into a space for startups and the UA Lighthouse in 2015. Its tenants have rotated since, but have included Sagamore Spirits, Plank’s rye whiskey brand that now has its own building in Port Covington, The Foundery, a makerspace that closed in 2019, and Betamore, a coworking space and technology incubator that has been based at City Garage since 2017.