Baltimore City

In open letter to Baltimore, Under Armour CEO touts investment, transformational change of Port Covington

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank urged support for the Port Covington project and proposed investing more than $100 million in recreation centers, job training, schools and parks in a full-page ad Wednesday in The Baltimore Sun.

The open letter marks Plank's most prominent personal effort moves to drum up support for the $5.5 billion project that hinges on tax-increment financing from the city.


"We are at a decision point," he said in the letter. "We want to invest in Baltimore, hire in Baltimore, live in Baltimore, and give in Baltimore. I hope that you agree that we have a special opportunity here. I hope that the City Council will review and approve the TIF, to make this all possible for our city."

Plank's real estate firm, Sagamore Development, has proposed to develop Port Covington in South Baltimore with offices, apartments and stores, in addition to a new campus for Under Armour. The plan calls for issuing a total of $660 million in city-approved bonds to pay for infrastructure, roads, parks and utilities as well as bond-related costs.


City officials also have urged support for the financing — which would be repaid with Port Covington's future property taxes — citing concerns that Under Armour could leave Baltimore.

"We can't wait. I mean this both in the sense that we are incredibly excited to build something special in Baltimore City, and in the sense that we literally can't wait to do so. Under Armour is out of space," Plank wrote. "We need to grow somewhere. We would like most of that growth to be here in Baltimore."

In the letter, Plank proposed spending more than $100 million on neighborhood needs in coming years. Also, Sagamore is committed to local hiring and providing opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, Plank wrote. The Under Armour CEO did not provide specifics.

The Baltimore Washington Laborers District Council has run TV ads demanding Sagamore pay workers "prevailing wages" — several dollars more per hour than the real estate firm has agreed to pay. In Wednesday's letter, Plank wrote that the $100 million investment also would go toward prevailing wages.

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Sagamore has said it would pay prevailing wages on one-quarter of the infrastructure work. But union officials have countered, saying Sagamore's 25 percent offer is too little considering the size of its financing request, and that prevailing wages already are required on any city construction contract worth more than $5,000.

Another lingering issue is how much affordable housing Sagamore will build. In his letter, Plank said Sagamore is making "unprecedented commitments" to inclusionary housing.

Last month, Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano testified before a City Council committee that Baltimore's flawed inclusionary housing law would require the city to pay $180 million to the Port Covington developers to build required affordable housing there. Lacking the funds, the city has approved a waiver so the law does not apply to Port Covington.

Still, Sagamore has agreed to the goal of making 10 percent of the 7,500 proposed residences, mostly rentals, affordable. Advocates for poor neighborhoods have said they want more and negotiations are ongoing.


Plank compared Port Covington to historic moments in Baltimore: the founding of Morgan State and Johns Hopkins universities, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the economic force that once was Bethlehem Steel.

"I hope that decades from now," Plank wrote, "our children and their children will look back on this moment and know that we saw one of those great forks in the road, and chose the best course."