Article26-sagamore

An artists’ rendering of what Port Covington would look like after development. (Courtesy Image/Sagamore Development)

At a rally on April 28, Baltimore City community leaders, activists, and labor leaders demanded that city officials delay an upcoming vote on the Port Covington tax-increment financing (TIF) plan.

The rally was held to protest the proposal by Sagamore Development, owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, to develop hotels, office space, and retail venues, along with residential and manufacturing space, on 260 acres of land in South Baltimore. Under Armour’s new headquarters would also be located at Port Covington, and the project’s developers claim it will generate thousands of new jobs.

While the entire project carries an estimated cost of $6.9 billion, Sagamore is asking Baltimore to provide $535 million via a TIF agreement. Under the arrangement, the city would issue bonds in that amount to Sagamore, which would be repaid later along with interest and other fees out of new property taxes created by the project. The agreement must ultimately be approved by the City Council.

The April 28 rally called on City Council president Bernard C. “Jack” Young to delay voting on the agreement until the new Council is seated later this year, and until Sagamore delivers stronger guarantees of living wages, benefits and transportation.

Citizens stood in front of City Hall with signs that read “No Lame Duck Decisions,” “STOP Tax Giveaways for the Rich” and “Billionaires: $535 Million. Kids: Zero.”

“Why don’t they use their own money,” asked Rudolph Barker, of Cherry Hill. Barker believes that city funds should be focused on bettering the community. “They closed down Wal-Mart—we don’t have a Wal-Mart, that makes no sense.”

Since its announcement, the Port Covington development plan has drawn criticism for a lack of transparency regarding its finances, and what some see as efforts to push it through the current city council and outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake before they both leave office.

Among those defending the deal, however, is Congressman Elijah Cummings.

“It’s hard not to get excited about this kind of large, mixed-use project that promises thousands of jobs for Baltimore residents,” Cummings said in a statement. “I am hopeful that with Plank’s vision and Sagamore’s expertise, implementation of this project will support Baltimore’s urgent community development priorities and bring much needed infrastructure improvements that will benefit the entire City.”