The Port Covington Project is the $4.4 billion mixed-use development dream of Under Armour sportswear mogul Kevin Plank and his company Sagamore Development. Port Covington would transform 260 acres on the city’s South side into the state’s largest mixed-use development. Locals are also keenly aware that Port Covington has asked the City of Baltimore to embrace the vision and contribute more than $535 million to Port Covington through TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funding.
Artist’s rendition of what the Port Covington Project would look like. (Courtesy image)
But not everyone in town is sold on the Port Covington dream. Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), a non-partisan, community-based, multi-faith organization that has been part of the local landscape since the late 1970’s, is not convinced the Port Covington project is in Baltimore’s best interest – certainly not in its present form. BUILD is far from the only organization raising concerns about the Port Covington Project. But with more than 20,000 members spread across Baltimore, the faith-based organization represents a force to be reckoned with.
BUILD members have met with Marc Weller, president of Sagamore Development. However, BUILD Co-Chair Andrew Connors said Weller has not made commitments regarding jobs or affordable housing for Baltimoreans. “As the City Council president has said, now is the time for negotiation. Sagamore has not responded to the City Council president’s call and they have not responded to our call to come to the table and negotiate,” Connors emphasized.
BUILD hired Tischler Base to conduct a fiscal impact analysis on the Port Covington proposal. Several aspects of the Port Covington plan were found to be inadequate, including the absence of a comprehensive market analysis, an understatement of municipal operating expenses that would need to be devoted to the project, and an understatement of land acquisition costs.
BUILD is calling on the City Council to delay voting on the project until the city conducts its own independent comprehensive review of the proposal. The organization also wants Sagamore to commit to a minimum of 51% local hiring for the Port Covington project, engage in profit sharing with the city, reimburse the city for any loss in education funds from the state due to rising property values associated with the project, and participate in a city-wide reinvestment fund, including a commitment of 20% affordable housing within the Port Covington project area.
Communities United, The NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Justice Fund joined BUILD members, union leaders and concerned citizens at the Council’s work session on Aug. 16, reinforcing concerns raised for months that in its current form, the Port Covington deal would further divide an already racially and economically divided city.
Build Co-Chair Connors hopes the City Council will slow down and judiciously consider the impact the Port Covington agreement will have on the future of all Baltimoreans. “This is the largest public subsidy ever requested in the history of the state of Maryland. We don’t think you should rush something like this through,” Connors warned. “It has the potential to either further divide us over the next 40 years or set a path to uniting us over the next 40 years.”
Next week: The Case For: Port Covington