Rawlings-Blake signs off on Port Covington public financing

In signing the Port Covington deal, Rawlings-Blake said she was ready for Baltimore's "next chapter."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake committed the city Wednesday to $660 million in public financing for roads, utilities and other infrastructure at Port Covington, site of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's $5.5 billion waterfront development — a step she called "one of the most significant milestones of Baltimore's modern history."

Flanked by City Council members, Plank's deputies and community activists, Rawlings-Blake signed legislation that authorizes the city to issue taxpayer-backed bonds to help pay for improvements around the sprawling project that supporters say will transform a largely industrial South Baltimore peninsula with offices, shops, homes, manufacturing space and a new Under Armour campus.

"We are setting the stage for a stronger Baltimore," the mayor said. "We're mobilizing our resources to build hope, to build opportunity and equity for all of our residents.

"Port Covington will be a catalytic project."

William H. Cole IV, the mayor's economic development chief, said the development of Port Covington will begin creating new jobs immediately.

"They are already working down there," he said. "We will see heavy activity within the next six months."

Cole said a profit-sharing agreement between the city and Sagamore Development Co. — Plank's private real estate company — is expected to come before the city's spending panel by the end of the year. Under the terms, the city will get a quarter of the profit from the development, after the first 15 percent of profit.

Sagamore President Marc Weller said the company considers religious leaders and community members to be long-term partners on the deal.

"We are hitting the ground running and excited to get started creating tens of thousands of jobs, generating long-term positive economic impact for Baltimore City and building this transformational, inclusive redevelopment, together," Weller said in a statement.

Plank did not attend the bill signing. Weller attended but did not speak during the ceremony.

Sagamore signed a $100 million community benefits agreement this month that requires the company to hire local workers, build or fund affordable housing and provide money to train workers and fund no-interest loans for minority- or women-owned startups.

The agreement was negotiated by city officials and groups including Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Progressive Baptist Convention of Maryland and six neighborhood associations near Port Covington.

The City Council approved the $660 million public financing package last week.

Under the tax-increment-financing deal, the city will float bonds to pay for infrastructure at the 160-acre site. The bonds would be repaid through taxes generated by the development.

The city projects the development will create 26,500 permanent jobs and pump $4.3 billion into the local economy annually.

The land includes the site of The Baltimore Sun's printing press. The Sun has a long-term lease on the property.

Sagamore agreed to hire city residents for at least 30 percent of all infrastructure construction work, pay a wage of at least $17.48 an hour, and set aside 20 percent of housing units for poor and middle-class families (40 percent of such housing may be built elsewhere in the city).

Opponents, including the advocacy group Maryland Working Families, several labor unions and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, say the deal does too little to help Baltimore's poor.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said jobs, affordable housing and other benefits will make the project a boon to the city.

"This is going to catapult Baltimore well into the next century," Young said.



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