Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s real estate firm to transplant a piece of Baltimore County to a waterfront parcel in Port Covington, building three, large, barn-like buildings to house a restaurant and whiskey-making plant.
The Sagamore Spirit distillery, another Plank venture, is the first new construction to be discussed publicly for the more than 120 acres assembled by Plank’s Sagamore Development Co. on the South Baltimore peninsula. Sagamore Development is working on a master plan for the area, where Plank wants to build a mixed-use hub for Under Armour and its employees.
Plans for the 301 East Cromwell Street parcel call for a 27,000-square-foot distilling center, 22,000-square-foot-processing plant, 12,000-square-foot restaurant and a small “support” building. A 120-foot, yet-to-be-designed water tower would hold limestone-filtered water trucked in from Plank’s Sagamore Farm to be used in the distilling process.
Designs by Baltimore architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross also show a shoreline promenade on the property.
Sagamore Development represenatives said the firm eventually wants to create a park on one of the piers, with connections to other parts of the city by water taxi. The firm is talking to the police department about building horse stables on a site just west of the distillery for the city’s mounted units.
Neither of those concepts were presented formally at Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel. Project manager Shawn Batterton declined to discuss other ideas being considered for the master plan.
Panel member Gary Bowden told the design team it has its work cut out for it in making an inviting area on land currently sliced by a “nondescript, suburban, industrial park road.”
The distillery would produce bottles of rye whiskey for Sagamore Spirit, named for Plank’s Worthington Valley horse racing and training facility. The whiskey project started as a way to boost the visibility — and profits — of the Sagamore brand, Plank said in an interview this month.
“The mission statement of Sagamore Farm is to win the Triple Crown and we are going to do it, but meanwhile it ain’t exactly a money-maker,” Plank said. “So … what else can we do here?”
Sagamore expects to start selling its first batch of rye, already being produced using third party contractors in 2016. Plank said he hopes to restore the popularity of rye — a Maryland liquor that fell out of fashion during Prohibition — and take the product global.
“It’s a business that can win and succeed and be profitable,” he said. “It can also be a great sense of pride for Baltimore and our area. I think there are real roots in history and story underneath there too.”
Once discussed for Sagamore Farm, a distillery in Port Covington, close to the busy I-95 corridor, made more sense, Plank said. Sagamore representatives declined to comment Wednesday on the distillery's production capacity, projected hiring or estimated number of visitors, saying it is too early in the process.
Ayers Saint Gross architect Scott Vieth told the city's design review panel Wednesday that the project team wanted to channel the beauty of Worthington Valley, while evoking Port Covington’s industrial past with features like a look-out designed with railroad-like materials.
But panel members warned against doing too much, pointing to the tricky work it takes to make a farm fit on the banks of an estuary flanked by highways. This particular parcel contains less than three acres of buildable space.
“Don’t have too much fun. It looks like Disneyland after a while,” said panel member David Rubin. “In this case, less is more.”