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Rendering of the first phase of the Port Covington development, which will be supported by $148 million in city bonds authorized Wednesday.
Rendering of the first phase of the Port Covington development, which will be supported by $148 million in city bonds authorized Wednesday. (handout / HANDOUT)

Baltimore’s Board of Finance voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the first phase of bonds to support the massive Port Covington project in South Baltimore.

The $148 million in bonds authorized will be the first public funds used to support the project by Weller Development Co. Weller is developing the project for Sagamore Development, a private real estate firm owned by billionaire Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, and the New York investment bank Goldman Sachs, which invested $233 million in Port Covington two years ago.

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In 2016, city officials approved issuing up to $660 million in tax increment financing bonds for the project. Each phase of the bonds for the project must be approved by the city’s Board of Finance. Under tax increment financing, the bonds are repaid through future increases in real estate taxes from the project.

Stephen M. Kraus, the city’s treasury chief, said he anticipated the first phase of bonds would be issued in the first quarter of 2020. They will go to pay for roads, streets, the conduit system, public parkland and bulkhead improvements near the project, Kraus said.

“It will all go to city-owned public infrastructure,” Kraus said.

The public money will be coupled with an investment of $516 million in private funds that will be spent on the construction of three apartment buildings, two office buildings and 1,000 parking spaces, Kraus said.

The apartment buildings will have a total of 529 units, he added.

“My experience is no TIF project moves as a fast as you’d like it to,” Kraus said. “We’re moving forward with it. We’ve got a funding plan in place.”

The project has been years in the making. Plank began accumulating properties in the area in 2013. Developers recently began preparing the site for construction. The Baltimore Sun’s offices and printing presses are also located in Port Covington, along with a Sagamore-owned restaurant and whiskey distillery. The Sun has a long-term lease on its facility.

Three cybersecurity-related firms have committed to anchoring the first phase of the project, and have touted Port Covington as a future cyber hub.

“We thank the members of the Board of Finance for advancing the Port Covington TIF through this latest step in the process and look forward to final document approval prior to marketing the first tranche of bonds next year,” said Marc Weller, founder of Weller Development.

“The redevelopment of Port Covington is one of the largest undertakings of its kind in the country, with significant work already underway,” Weller said in a statement. “We continue to meet all construction and regulatory deadlines on-time, or ahead of schedule.”

Kraus said the project would create about 3,000 construction jobs and 3,800 permanent jobs when completed.

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