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Tribune Media sells Port Covington property for $46.5M

The Baltimore Sun
The Sun's former parent company sold a Port Covington parcel that includes printing plant.

Tribune Media Co. said Monday it sold its 60-acre Port Covington parcel known as Sun Park, which includes The Baltimore Sun's printing plant, to an undisclosed buyer for $46.5 million.

The sale — the second major land deal in the waterfront area this year — won't affect the printing of the newspaper. The Sun has a long-term lease for the printing plant, which occupies about 23 acres including a parking lot, according to Tribune Media. Tribune Media is the successor to Tribune Co., The Sun's former owner, which spun off its newspapers as Tribune Publishing in August.

A spokeswoman for Tribune Media declined to name the buyer for the property, located on a peninsula in South Baltimore east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge on Hanover Street and south of Interstate 95.

An entity identified as 300 East Cromwell Street LLC received expedited approval last week to lead environmental cleanup at the site in anticipation of its purchase of the property, according to a Dec. 17 letter from the Maryland Department of the Environment. The firm registered in Maryland in October, according to state records.

The attorney for 300 East Cromwell Street LLC, Mark Pollak of Ballard Spahr, declined to comment last week and did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Ballard Spahr also worked on deals for other properties in the area, identified in land records by the property addresses and managed by Chevy Chase developer Marc Weller, who now controls about 70 acres on the peninsula.

The parcels include a 5.2-acre waterfront property purchased at a 2012 foreclosure auction as well as a 59-acre shopping center with a Wal-Mart and a now-closed Sam's Club, which sold in January for $35 million. Weller also signed a 10-year option in February to buy 321 E. Cromwell St., where Tidewater Yacht Service is located.

Weller, who did not respond to requests for comment, is a partner with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank in Sagamore Development Co., which is converting Recreation Pier in Fells Point into a hotel.

Baltimore Planning Department officials said the Planning Commission approved a plan in October submitted by Sagamore Development to change exterior signs on the former Sam's Club in anticipation of using it for offices for Under Armour. The preliminary plans for the Sam's Club site describe a basketball court for employees, new plantings and fences, while preserving public access to the waterfront, according to Planning Department documents.

The Baltimore-based sports apparel maker employs nearly 2,000 people in Baltimore and is growing rapidly. For years, Plank has said he wants to create a corporate campus to accommodate Under Armour as it outgrows its Tide Point headquarters.

An Under Armour spokeswoman and representative for Plank did not respond to requests for comment.

The land sales do suggest renewed interest in the area.

"I think momentum is starting to turn around with the overall development climate in the city," said Planning Director Tom Stosur. "People are looking at it with fresh eyes, and there should be new opportunities."

Stosur said he was not privy to information about the buyers of Sun Park.

Baltimore Development Corp. President William H. Cole IV, who previously represented the area on the City Council, did not respond to requests for comment. City Councilman Eric Costello, who replaced Cole, also did not respond to requests for comment.

The Sun opened its 375,000-square-foot Sun Park facility in 1992 after investing more than $150 million at the site.

Tribune Media retained Tribune's television holdings and real estate when the newspapers were spun off as Tribune Publishing in August. The Sun began leasing the plant at the time.

Tribune said the division would allow each company to focus on its core business and ease regulatory issues, but some, including California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, criticized the split, saying it loaded the new publishing firm with debt while stripping it of valuable longtime real estate assets.

Peter Liguori, who stayed on to head Tribune Media, said earlier this year the company was looking to capitalize on the real estate assets inherited from its newspapers, the owners of prime properties in cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

Tribune Media said it expects to net about $30 million from the sale after taxes and closing costs.

The company sold the former Columbia Flier building to Howard County for $2.8 million earlier this year. And Forest Hill flooring company Spartan Surfaces has a contract to buy the former home of the Aegis in Bel Air from Tribune Media, said Spartan Surfaces general manager Wayne Carter. The terms are still being negotiated, he said.

nsherman@baltsun.com

cwells@baltsun.com

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