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Mayor to consider $35M financing tied to Under Armour project

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will consider a request for up to $35 million in city tax increment financing for infrastructure projects related to the proposed doubling of Under Armour's Locust Point headquarters in South Baltimore.

The board of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, planned to forward the request to the mayor Thursday.

The BDC board on Thursday also heard updates on developer Lexington Square Partners' proposed $150 million apartment and retail development on downtown's west side, in an area long targeted for urban renewal.

Work on a $1.2 million project to demolish the vacant Greyhound Bus terminal on West Fayette Street to make way for the Lexington Square project could start as soon as next Friday, according to M.J. "Jay" Brodie, the BDC's president.

In addition, work to stabilize the exterior of the former Read's Drugstore at Howard and Lexington streets, the site of a 1955 civil rights sit-in, could begin as soon as April 30 under a $349,000 contract approved by the city, Brodie said.

TIF financing for the Under Armour project would allow the city to issue bonds to pay for improvements in and around the sports apparel company's Tide Point offices, including street and promenade upgrades, new athletic fields for the company and public, and a biking/hiking path to connect to Key Highway.

The debt would be repaid with incremental property taxes generated by Under Armour's new construction.

"Tide Point is in need of infrastructure to be converted to a corporate campus," said Deborah Hunt Devan, who heads the BDC board's project review committee.

Under Armour — which employs 1,200 at the Locust Point complex but expects to grow to more than 1,700 workers over the next decade — plans to build an 80,000-square-foot office building with a retail store next to the Domino Sugar plant by next year.

The company hopes to complete more work by 2016, including the addition of two stories to each of the three largest buildings at the waterfront complex, as well as an 800-space parking garage.

Under Armour on Wednesday replaced the old "Tide Point" sign on its headquarters with a new sign that says "Under Armour."

Plans for the final phase of work on the Under Armour complex — a former Procter & Gamble factory — call for the demolition of the Tide building to make way for a 255,000-square-foot office structure.

The first phase of expansion would likely require $5 million in TIF financing, Devan said. The project review committee has recommended approving the financing, which would require mayoral and City Council approval. The BDC's board met in closed session Thursday to discuss the TIF request and did not disclose whether it recommended the mayor approve the request.

Under the TIF financing, the city would not be on the hook if the Under Armour improvements failed to generate the expected increase in property taxes, Brodie said, explaining that the company would be responsible for repaying any debt.

BDC officials also said Thursday that they had set an April 6 deadline for accepting applications from economic development experts interested in replacing Brodie, who announced his retirement last month after 16 years as president.

The city is conducting a nationwide search, posting the opening on job boards maintained by the Washington-based Urban Land Institute, the International Economic Development Council and the Maryland Economic Development Association.

The city seeks applicants who have managed an economic development agency or a similar group for at least five years and have an advanced degree in business administration, finance, urban planning or architecture.

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