The Baltimore Business Journal today posted a story on Kevin Plank’s plans to build a new mansion on 65 acres in the Green Spring Valley. The piece was written by Melody Simmons, and Baltimore Fishbowl Editor Susan Dunn contributed to the report. The piece is excerpted below.
This fall, as the last brittle leaves rattle off trees in Brooklandville, some who live there say the pristine vista is being marred by a shocking sight.
Under Armour Inc. CEO Kevin Plank has started construction on an uber-mansion that will span 34,523 square feet on 65 acres at the gateway to Baltimore County’s rural and historic Green Spring Valley.
The structure will have a footprint the size of a football field, a detached four-car garage and a 10-foot retaining wall out front, according to county records filed under Three Diamond Land LLC, a private corporation formed in 2010 based at Under Armour’s headquarters in Locust Point.
Also included in the plans for the sprawling, eight-bedroom house — soon be among the largest in Maryland: A mega basement with a wet bar, elevator shaft, a two-floor open deck, an indoor pool and four fireplaces. It will be designed by Ike Kligerman Barkley, a New York-based architectural firm.
“The house is being designed to blend tastefully with the landscape and the character of the valley,” said Tom Geddes, managing partner of Plank Industries, in an email. Plank Industries is the holding company for Plank’s growing interests outside of Under Armour (NYSE: UA).
Some would consider Plank’s budding estate a dream house, part of a national trend where the hyper-rich are building colossal mansions that make a statement. The founder of the Baltimore-based sportswear company has legally and correctly filed for and been granted demolition and construction permits, county officials say, and all of his plans are in order.
But not to his neighbors.
To them, the project is already overpowering the surrounding community, with about 500 acres nearby held in easement to preserve the rural character in the county.
“It’s having a huge impact on par with the construction of the Baltimore Beltway,” said Doug Carroll, who lives on Greenspring Valley Road near the Plank construction site, of the caravan of large dump trucks that have driven up and down the winding two-lane road for hours each day. The trucks are carting what Carroll estimates to be 65,000 square feet of soil off the property to clear way for the estate.
“It’s absolutely legal — but the questions is, should it be legal? This is a new way of being impacted.”
Carroll and his wife, Deirdre Smith, have been activists for land and historic preservation in the Green Spring Valley for years.
Their property totals 100 acres and is near Meadowood Regional Park just off of Interstate 695. Much of it is preserved under an easement with the Maryland Environmental Trust, permanently freezing its rural vista from development.
Hundreds of other property owners — including local developer David Cordish — have also taken an easement on their properties in the valley as well, and are proud to say that the landscape there looks like it did 100 years ago.
Carroll said this week that Plank — a self-made billionaire — is getting the benefits of the work they had done over the past three decades to save the landscape.
“We have done a lot to save the land for people like Kevin who may want to live here,” he said. “He has an obligation to the area. His view from his new house will all be land we’ve saved. He’s taking advantage of the view — and creating a reverse impact.”
Geddes said Plank is in the process of placing a conservation easement on the entire 65-acre site “to preserve the rural land and water quality, air quality, land and soil stability and productivity and wildlife.” He said the mansion is for the sole use of the Plank family, and that no Under Armour or other company entertaining or client lodging will occur there.
Plank’s project, Carroll added, is “the talk of the valley” because of its size, scope and potential stormwater runoff problem because of the vast space of land now being cleared for the mansion.
One community member recently hired a drone operator to fly over the site to take photographs so residents could get a first glimpse of the construction site that they had only been aware of by the noise and traffic congestion. The photos revealed a huge swath of land surrounded by trees, cleared and already being graded for the estate.
The Plank project is zoned RC-2, which is one of the most restrictive zoning designations in the U.S. It specifies one house built per 50 acres and has been used for years in the valley and northern parts of the county to retain a rural and pristine landscape. Efforts about a decade ago to try to restrict the size of residential building to 10,000 square feet in the RC-2 zone failed to pass through the County Council, Carroll said.
“For the same money he’s spending on that house, he could have bought several houses around here and preserved them,” Carroll said.
In fact, Plank demolished a historic house on the property on his way to clearing the land for his estate.
The house, known locally as Knollwood and the “Bunting House,” was an elegant three-story valley mansion built in 1887. It was razed under a permit this past year, county records show.
Geddes said Plank donated some of the Knollwood scraps to Second Chance, a Baltimore nonprofit.
“Kevin’s acquisition of this land has ensured that it will remain open and rural forever, and the house will occupy only a small percentage of the site and will be largely out of view, thanks to the many trees on the property to which they have added a good number,” Geddes said.
It is not Plank’s only recent foray into real estate.
This year, Plank revealed that he had spent millions to buy close to 200 acres along the city’s waterfront in Port Covington for a new campus for Under Armour, which is currently landlocked in Locust Point. He also broke ground recently on a large rye whiskey distillery in Port Covington.
Plank also owns and has restored the 530-acre Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, about 10 miles away from the Brooklandville site. The farm is used for breeding thoroughbred race horses. The land, formerly owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt III, was placed in a conservation easement prior to Plank’s purchase of it in 2007.
Plank also has supported land preservation efforts in Baltimore County — recently allowing a fundraiser to be held at Sagamore Farm to benefit the Valleys Planning Council, a nonprofit conservation group based in Towson.
Nevertheless, the size and scope of the area’s newest estate has Smith wondering about conservation and its carbon footprint impact.
“This house is blurring the line between commercial and residential,” she said.
Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who represents the 2nd District where the Plank mansion is to be located, said she has heard complaints from constituents about the Plank mansion project and its scope for months.
“I understand the complaints of the neighbors, but basically, the bottom line is he has the right to do what he’s doing there,” Almond said. “And as long as his permits are in order, I think we just need to welcome him to the neighborhood.
“I can’t imagine he’s not going to be a good neighbor.”