A subsidiary of banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. will invest $67 million in Baltimore's Harbor Point development for a 90 percent stake in the 23-story skyscraper that is the planned regional headquarters of energy firm Exelon Corp., city officials said.
The massive $1.8 billion waterfront project, planned for a former chemical plant site between Fells Point and Harbor East, also will be supported by $178 million in construction loans from M&T Bank to the developer, Michael S. Beatty, officials said.
City officials revealed the banks' roles as they voted Monday to issue $36 million in tax-increment financing bonds. Beatty will purchase the bonds to help pay the M&T Bank loan.
"This project has been held up," Stephen M. Kraus, the city's chief of treasury management, told the city finance board. "This developer needs to move."
Board members voted 4-0 to issue the bonds, which could go to Beatty as soon as January. Alexander M. Sanchez, chief of staff for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and three of the mayor's appointees voted in favor of the deal.
Comptroller Joan M. Pratt abstained. She said she wanted more information.
Beatty's Harbor Point Development Group LLC disclosed its financial backers in order to convince the board it had sufficient support for the first of the project's three stages. JPMorgan Chase's Commingled Pension Trust Fund will be the primary institutional investor, documents show. Beatty's group will invest $9.8 million.
Kraus said he did not immediately know what Beatty's development fee would be, or how much he is paying the site's owner ,Honeywell International Inc, to purchase the 27-acre parcel.
Darrell Doan, managing director of real estate development for the Baltimore Development Corp., told the finance board that a consultant has projected Harbor Point will create thousands of jobs and millions of tax dollars for city government.
"These types of projects do not come along very often," Doan said. "The benefits are extensive."
Pratt asked why board members wouldn't wait until state environmental regulators had given a final approval before issuing the bonds.
State and federal environmental agencies have approved Beatty's design plan for the site. That approval allows his firm to begin preparing for construction. But the state is still evaluating the developer's plan for air monitoring during construction.
Some neighbors said questions remain about elevated levels of cancer-causing chromium in groundwater just beyond the area targeted for the upscale development. The developers plan to drive 1,100 pilings into the ground, which would disturb the protective cap over land that once held a chromium processing plant.
Kraus told board members that regulators had addressed all environmental questions.
"There are no concerns. They're just testing," he said. "It's establishing a base level of air quality."
Harbor Point is to host a Morgan Stanley facility, other office buildings, residential towers, stores and a hotel in addition to Exelon, its anchor tenant.
Kraus described three significant changes to the proposal approved by the City Council earlier this year. Plans now call for the Exelon tower to hold 103 apartments. A bridge extending Central Avenue into Harbor Point will cost $6.6 million, less than the $10.5 million anticipated earlier. And the tax increment financing bonds will carry an interest rate of 3.4 percent instead of 6.5 percent.
The sale of the bonds to Beatty allows the lower interest rate, helping save money, Kraus said. He predicted a savings of about $5 million over the costs of selling the bonds publicly.
"We're actually saving money under this structure," Kraus said. "It's cheaper for us."
Kraus said the revenues Beatty takes in from the city bonds would go "dollar-for-dollar" to help pay for the M&T Bank loans.
Beatty said in a statement that he appreciated the finance board's support and looked forward to creating "new jobs and opportunities" for Baltimore residents and businesses.
The City Council gave final approval in September to $107 million in taxpayer assistance for the development that the mayor calls a "once-in-a-generation opportunity."
With tax-increment financing, the bond sale proceeds are used for infrastructure improvements — in this case, public parks and other infrastructure — and future property taxes generated by the development are used to pay off the bonds.
The tax-increment financing is part of about $400 million in public subsidies for the project, including more than $110 million in tax breaks.
The largely vacant Harbor Point site is assessed now at $10 million, but the Baltimore Development Corp. projects it will be valued at $1.8 billion for tax purposes when the development is completed years from now.
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