Baltimore City Council is expected to take a final vote on the $5.5 billion Port Covington Project, including the $600 million TIF requested by Sagamore Development, next week.  Much has been made of the revised Memorandum of Understanding between Sagamore and community leaders leading to a new $100 million community benefits agreement.

“This agreement signals a brand new day for Baltimore,” said BUILD co-chair The Rev. Glenna Huber.  While the agreement is not perfect, it is a significant step forward for this city,” Huber said.

portcovington

Artist’s rendition of what Port Covington will look like after completion. (Courtesy photo)

Sagamore executives are encouraged by a preliminary vote 12-0 in favor of the Port Covington Project by the Council this on Sept. 13 and a new MOU recently negotiated with community leaders and city council officials that increased the amount of local hiring, a pledge to invest $10 million in minority/women-owned businesses and the mandatory inclusion of affordable housing, among other things.   While some community, civic and business interests hailed the revised agreement others like Maryland Working Families and Build Up Baltimore continue to oppose the deal.

“This is the real thing,” said Alicia Wilson, Vice President for Community Affairs at Sagamore Development Corporation and a Baltimore native.

Wilson was involved in the original negotiations with the SB-6 neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site for Port Covington and as well as meetings to craft a revised agreement. “Coming from this city, being a youth in this city, it is an honor to now be in this position where I feel like I can really help move progress,” Wilson said.

Last week, Sagamore Development, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and other city council members joined leaders of the SB-6 Coalition and BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development) to unveil the new MOU. It replaces the original MOU Sagamore development signed with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake in January.

The outline below provides a synopsis of how expenditures promised by Sagamore Development will be used, based on language in the new MOU:

FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS

$39 millionLocal priorities identified by the SB-Six coalition neighborhoods. Sagamore brokered an agreement with six South Baltimore communities that includes $5 million cash infusions for each community. (This agreement was brokered with the SB-6 coalition in July and remains consistent in the new MOU.)
$25 millionWorkforce development training enter and initiatives. (this represents new funding committed over a 15-year period).
$10 millionVenture loan/equity fund investment in minority and women-owned companies in Baltimore city.  This amount includes $1.6 million for a micro-lending program providing 0% loans to Baltimore entrepreneurs (over a 12-year period).
$1.5 millionYouth Works (over a 10-year period to fund 100 jobs per year.). The original MOU specified a 5-year commitment.
$800,000Local hiring coordinator (total over a 10-year period).
$7.680 millionEducation, after school programs and other “City wide” priorities.
$1 millionScholarships (over a 5-years) for Baltimore City Public School students.
$1 millionScholarships (over a 5 years) for Baltimore City community school high-needs students.
$5 millionEast Baltimore Recreation Center (project currently underway)
$35.4 millionDedication of lad for public use/parks, open space and rights-of-way
$6.5 millionTo cover incremental costs of “prevailing wages.” (see section on hiring below)
$3.02 millionConsultant for City Comptroller’s office to work with certification of Minority and Women’s owned businesses. (over 20 years).

  INCLUSIONARY HOUSING AGREEMENTS: Sagamore’s amended MOU increases the project’s commitment to affordable housing to 20% overall.  The increase from the prior commitment of 10% affordable housing is one of the sticking points that originally caused community groups to oppose the deal.

However, there are important caveats to note, based on the company’s ability to obtain assistance from the state or federal government to cover costs through vouchers and tax credits. More than 7000 housing units are planned for the Port Covington project.

Here are the details:

  • 10% of the affordable housing units are designated for individuals/households earning no more than 30% of Area Median income (AMI)
  • 5% designated for individuals/households earning no more than 50% AMI
  • Remaining units for individuals/households at 60% AMI
  • Caveat – this agreement is contingent upon the ability of Sagamore Development Corporation to obtain housing vouchers or similar assistance for inclusionary housing. Sagamore will seek Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC’s)to develop affordable housing at 60% or below AMI with a commitment of 5% housing at 50% or below AMU.
  • Caveat #2 – If Sagamore cannot obtain LIHTC’s then the affordable housing units will be offered at 80% or below AMI.
  • Caveat #3 – Only a portion of the affordable housing units will be built on-site at Port Covington. The rest will be constructed in communities across the city.
  • Caveat #4- If Sagamore can’t create on-site units “on a financially reasonable basis” the company can opt to contribute to Baltimore’s Inclusionary Housing Offset Fund at a maximum rate of $40,000 – 60,000 per unit.

HIRING AGREEMENTS: The new agreement includes stronger language for local hiring and increases local hiring goals from 20% to 30%.  BUILD-UP Baltimore and Maryland Working Families wanted to see stronger commitments to prevailing wages for all workers connected to Port Covington.

  • Mandated local hiring at 30%
  • 12% of work performed on the project must utilize apprentices. Each contractor on the Port Covington project must abide by a 20% apprenticeship goal within 5 years.
  • Minimum wage of $17.48 for all trade employees working on the TIF infrastructure project.

COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION: In an interview with the AFRO, Baltimore Development Corporation President, Bill Cole pledged that the Port Covington Project would not result in hurting the funding formula for the city’s public schools. However, Councilman Stokes, City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises and other school advocates were nervous that agreements were not firmly in place to assure the project would not adversely impact public education.

The new agreement stipulates that Sagamore will not request TIF bonds if there is a projected decrease in funding for Baltimore City Schools and no plan in place to fill the gap.

The final vote comes after 11 city-council members signed a petition to force last week’s preliminary vote. Councilman Carl Stokes, chair of the Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee abruptly adjourned a recent committee meeting that would have moved the bill forward.

Stokes said he has now “pledged his full support” to the Port Covington Project and will support a final vote in the coming week. The bill will then go Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who is expected to sign it.