City Council Gives Final Approval for Port Covington Financing Deal

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Rendering courtesy Sagamore Development.

The Baltimore City Council voted on Monday to night to give final approval for $660 million in public financing for the Under Armour-backed Port Covington development project.

Through the deal, Baltimore City will funnel that sum to Sagamore Development in bonds, which the company will pay back over time through future taxes. The council had already shown strong support for the deal in a preliminary vote that moved it forward last week.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the council voted 12-1 to approve the three bills that contain the agreement reached between the city, developers and community groups. Councilman Warren Branch of District 13 was the only member to vote against the deal, while Mary Pat Clarke of District 14 and Bill Henry of District 4 abstained.

The decades-long development project is expected to generate tens of thousands of jobs for the city and transform an area of South Baltimore that is mostly occupied right now by Under Armour’s headquarters into a neighborhood with new housing, retail and manufacturing space.

“Under Armour is No. 2, next to Nike,” Council President Bernard “Jack” Young told The Sun. “We don’t want Under Armour to move out of the city of Baltimore.”

Following negotiations with community groups and legislators, Sagamore agreed to make 20 percent of its rental units available to low- and middle-income families and hire at least 30 percent of its construction workforce for the project from within Baltimore. The company has already agreed to provide nearly $40 million in funding to six South Baltimore neighborhoods and for other city projects over the next 30 years.

A handful of groups that were active in protesting and negotiating aspects of the development proposal’s terms have already signaled their support for the agreement.

Still, the deal may allow developers to skip over the step where they build the brick-and-mortar units in favor of pouring the money for that affordable housing into a so-called inclusionary housing fund, according to The Sun.

Additionally, some worry the future development will cost Baltimore hundreds of millions in state funding for schools once it is built. Those concerns originate in part from a city-funded analysis that projected the city could lose more than $315 million in state education funding, according to the ACLU of Maryland.

Councilman Carl Stokes of District 12, who previously postponed a committee vote on one of the bills containing the financing deal and voiced concerns about education funding losses, said on Monday that he believes in the deal’s economic prospects for the city.

“I actually expect it be something that makes a strong difference economically for citizens of Baltimore,” Stokes told WJZ.

Branch, the sole “no”-voting member, told WJZ he could not give his vote of approval because the agreement does not give anything back to his district, which includes sections of East and Northeast Baltimore.

The three bills approved Monday night by the council now head to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for her signature.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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