A Baltimore County developer plans to build a mixed-use community on one of Baltimore’s last undeveloped waterfront sites, a parcel in Westport owned by Kevin Plank.
Stonewall Capital, based in Sparks, has signed a contract to purchase 43 acres from Weller Development, Stonewall principal Ray Jackson said Monday.
Weller is building the Port Covington waterfront project across the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and had previously envisioned connecting it with additional development in Westport. Plank’s real estate firm, Sagamore Development, had purchased the land for $6 million at a bankruptcy auction in 2015.
Sagamore Development brought in Weller to manage the development of the parcels around the Middle Branch accumulated by the Under Armour founder. With Plank now focused on trying to turn around the faltering athletic apparel brand, Westport and some other properties were put up for sale earlier this year.
Jackson, whose company acts as a master developer, said he was approached by the broker handling the sale several months ago to see whether he would consider buying and developing it.
He declined to disclose the purchase price or say when the deal is set to close.
Weller Development declined to comment Monday, but David Baird, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield and the property’s broker, said Stonewall now controls the property.
The Westport land is slated for a dense mix of uses under a planned unit development designation, but Jackson said he envisions something on a scale that would dovetail with the existing neighborhood of rowhomes and offer affordability.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity in that it’s a 40-acre parcel on the water in Baltimore, with great access to public transportation, in close proximity to an exit for [Route] 295,” Jackson said. “I love the vision for rehabilitation and revitalization of the Middle Branch, and think this can be complementary to it.”
The city envisions a sweeping project to revitalize the river and its 11 miles of waterfront with wetlands, boardwalks, beaches, walking trails and other amenities, stretching from Port Covington, through Westport and on to Cherry Hill, Riverside and Brooklyn.
The zoning of the property, near the Westport light rail station, allows for a transit-oriented mix of multifamily and rowhouse development as well as commercial uses such as offices and service-oriented shops.
“My vision might be a little different than some of the previous plans that were presented, in that I’m going to be practical in the sense we want to make sure what we propose is buildable, is functional and fits with the existing community,” Jackson said.
Before Plank acquired the property, it was controlled by developer Patrick Turner, whose vision for an upscale waterfront community potentially anchored by a soccer stadium there never came to fruition.
Jackson envisions a mix of housing, a commercial element with some offices with businesses and nonprofit organizations and some retail, possibly service-oriented or restaurants.
But the specifics of the plans, now in the preliminary planning stages, will be developed with input from community members and city officials.
He has begun a series of meetings with residents and elected officials “to incorporate everyone’s visions and thoughts before I lay out a plan.”
Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, said community members have a lot of questions at this early stage, especially as proposals for the site have come and gone.
“This is our third go-around in Westport, so we are like ‘here we go again,’” said Allen, who also chairs the board of the Harbor West Collaborative, a community development corporation that includes Westport. "Developers have been transparent and friendly with the community, but it is a matter of what you’re going to do and how does the existing community play a role in this.”
One of Allen’s hopes, she said, is that new investment will put pressure on out-of-town landlords who neglect properties in Westport.
“Everyone wants property values to rise,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure residents who live here can stay if they want.”
Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, said the developer offered to collaborate on the work the partnership and city are doing to transform the Middle Branch shoreline into a parks and trails district.
“As far as I can tell, it is very early, but they seem to be approaching this site with an open mind and are curious to know what the community wants to see and what they can do to support all the great work being done in South Baltimore," said Rogers, whose group is an economic development authority funded by casino revenue to support neighborhoods.
The timing may be right for Westport now because casino revenue is available to help boost South Baltimore neighborhoods and create new opportunities, he said.
“Everyone wants to see a beautiful waterfront with exciting new development that everyone has access to,” he said. “The real question is how do we make that happen."
The Westport property went under contract last year, but the deal fell through, Cushman & Wakefield’s Baird said. The property was put on the market in February.
“Since we’ve had it on the market, the interest for residential uses has been consistent and very high,” said Baird, who ended up with multiple offers. “And frankly, even under the pandemic, that interest hasn’t wavered.”
Jackson, whose company also is also developing the 650-acre Southfields of Elkton in Cecil County, is putting together a team of planning, environmental and marketing specialists to work on the Westport project. He said the project will be driven by market demand and could unfold over five to 10 years.
The company also has done some infill developments in Baltimore, including 29 rowhouses just off The Avenue in Hampden.
Jackson said he plans to approach the Westport project in the way he is building Southfields, a mix of housing and commercial uses, by bringing in national homebuilders and developers for various components.
Edward Reisinger, the outgoing councilman who represents Westport, wasn’t familiar with Stonewall’s plans for Westport, but said any major change from the existing high-density “planned unit development” zoning would require action by the council.
“I would love to see a development at that site,” said Reisinger, noting that constituents often complain about trash and other problems at the fallow former industrial site. “It’s just sitting there and it has a ripple effect through the community of Westport. ... If they come in with the right plan for that area, it would be a plus."