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Editorial

Port Covington’s rebranding: How remarkably generic and boring is ‘Baltimore Peninsula’? | COMMENTARY

This is an aerial rendering of Port Covington, which is being rebranded by its developers as Baltimore Peninsula. (Baltimore Sun handout).

In the neighborhood formerly known as Port Covington — where The Baltimore Sun’s newsroom has been located since 2018, when we joined the now-defunct production plant that had been there since 1992 — we can’t say we ever considered its name a liability. Indeed, Port Covington has something of a rich history in this city, first as the home of Fort Covington, which provided support for Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and then as the shipping terminus for the Western Maryland Railroad; its Middle Patapsco waterfront was once lined with warehouses, piers, cranes and rail yards.

Yet, as we like to say in Baltimore, “Nevermore.” Developers MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners, along with Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs, owners of the massive South Baltimore redevelopment project in the region, have decided that Port Covington will henceforth be known as “Baltimore Peninsula.”

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Here’s the best thing that can be said about the new name: It’s not misleading, as the property in question is surrounded by water, and, yes, it’s part of Baltimore. Of course, by that logic, it could also have been called “Baltimore Point” or “Baltimore Promontory” or “Baltimore Bluff”— or “Limb” or “Cape” or “Horn.” We’re guessing peninsula evokes something a bit more upper crusty than those other choices, as in Peninsula Hotels, the 5-star luxury hotel chain where a single night sleeping above New York’s 5th Avenue starts in the neighborhood of $1,000 (which is a pretty darn nice neighborhood to be in, one imagines). In the world of marketing, such connections are meaningful, although we find it hard to see how this made-up name is a “powerful” brand, or even “clear” and “authentic,” as the CEO of New York-based MAG Partners claims.

The problem is that Baltimore Peninsula is also generic and boring. And it’s likely to be shortened by the juvenile-humored set to a part of the male anatomy. We’re not saying Baltimoreans are prone to embracing such potty mouthery; no, we’re actually writing it down, because we know it’s true. Developers would be fortunate if the faux name just gets reduced to “Baltimore Pen,” assuming it is not confused with the Maryland Pen on Eager Street, which also once welcomed visitors (but for long durations and under lock and key). That 50 possible titles were considered and the owners decided on this one staggers the imagination. Did they realize Baltimore has famously been the home of the late burlesque queen, Blaze Starr; filmmaker John “Pink Flamingos” Waters; and the Block? Bad taste is a thing here.

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Make no mistake, we’re a cheerleader for the ongoing half-billion-dollar (and counting) investment in the neighborhood formerly known as Port Covington, even as we look for office space elsewhere, and we wish everyone involved well. We are grateful that Under Armour founder Kevin Plank has been such a driving force behind the development. But we fear that some of these well-meaning folks don’t quite understand what the city is all about. The most spot-on marketing campaign to date was not the highly aspirational “Baltimore: The City That Reads” of the 1980s or the more recent “Believe” or “Birthplace of The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s the unofficial title of “Charm City,” which does double duty as both a positive objective and an ironic acknowledgment that we’re not always so charming. Baltimore is not Manhattan. It is diverse, challenged and maybe a little weird, but it is, customarily at least, authentic and individual. We are steamed crabs and cold beer, Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, the American Visionary Art Museum and eating sauerkraut at Thanksgiving. We are more than a simple land mass. We are our history, and that includes Port Covington.

Baltimore is proud of its heritage, and even newcomers like our eccentricity. At least they seem to like it when they show up at HonFest or AFRAM Baltimore ready to celebrate. We may have gun violence. We may have poverty, the legacy of racism and underperforming schools but we’ve still got some pride, too. What’s next? Perhaps it will soon be time to change Butchers Hill to Mont de Charcuterie or Sandtown-Winchester to the “Great Plains of West Baltimore.” Port Covington may invoke the city’s industrial past over its live/work/play future, but at least it has a couple hundred years of proving it is nickname resistant.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.


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