Developers behind the Harbor Point project in Fells Point will be hiring more Baltimore residents to complete the next and largest phase of its 27-acre development as part of a new agreement with the city and community advocates.
The arrangement also allows for more density and loosens parking requirements for the construction on what’s known as Parcel 1. Developers say these changes more closely align the project’s zoning with the rest of downtown and the Inner Harbor.
Beatty Development Group, spearheading the Harbor Point project, worked with Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen on the jobs-for-density agreement. The deal sets a 30-percent target for jobs for city residents in carpentry, construction, day labor and other areas, up from 20 percent.
“I’m a big believer in density in our wealthier parts of the city. I think we should rebuild our tax base,” Cohen said. “I also think that when we build, we should make sure that everyone benefits, not just developers, and not just the folks that are fortunate enough to be able to live in an expensive one-bedroom apartment, but our working-class families that have made (Baltimore) what it is.”
The Harbor Point project includes developments including Thames Wharf, home to Morgan Stanley; and the new Exelon building, where Constellation Energy is headquartered. Harbor Point also boasts of new luxury apartment units, restaurants and retail space. T. Rowe Price is set to move into a new global headquarters there when its building, part of the project’s third phase, opens in 2024.
Before Beatty Development Group could begin the next phase of the project, it needed zoning modifications. Before moving on the request from developers to change restrictions, Cohen – who represents the area – included neighborhood groups and community advocates in conversations about how to proceed.
“I think that community needs to have a voice in shaping the way we develop our city,” he said. “Too often we shut community out for these conversations, and I think we’ve seen over the years, the frustration, particularly in parts of our city that have experienced neglect and disinvestment, that when there is finally development, the community often feels left out.”
In 2013, the Baltimore City Council approved more than $100 million in tax increment financing for the waterfront development, a move that was met with some opposition at the time, including criticism that the deal was made without much community input.
Cohen said bringing the community together with the developers to broker an arrangement could serve as a model for future developments in his district and across the city. He organized meetings with the Little Italy and Fells Point neighborhood groups and Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD), a community organization working on housing, workforce development and education issues.
Cohen and advocates from BUILD negotiated an agreement with developers to increase their commitment to local hiring for the project. Beatty Development Group was already meeting, and in some cases exceeding, 20 percent local-preference hiring requirements for its phases one, two and three.
For work on Parcel 1, the new agreement stipulates that 30 percent of those hired will be Baltimore residents.
“When we do development, particularly in a wealthy area, it is incumbent on us to put Baltimoreans to work and to make sure we are creating jobs for those of us that live here, not just for people from other municipalities,” Cohen said.
Beatty’s vice president of development Jonathan Flesher, who is overseeing the Harbor Point project, said site contractors had been working with organizations like Living Classrooms and the city to locate trained workers for the projects in previous phases. Those efforts would continue to meet the new heftier requirements for phase four.
“We’ve found that so far this has been relatively successful,” Flesher said. ”We have been meeting all the goals so far, and we believe that we’re going to be able to do this 30 percent.”
Depending on the pace of construction, more than 200 laborers could be working on a site, so several dozen could be Baltimore residents.
In return for commitment to hiring locally, Cohen in April introduced an ordinance amending the 2004 Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance designed to guide the area’s development.
Cohen’s ordinance was approved by the city council in September, and signed by Mayor Brandon Scott on Oct. 24.
The change allows Beatty to build up Parcel 1 with additional square footage, and, as Flesher put it, allows for hundreds more new residents to live downtown and pay taxes to the city. Buildings on parcel 1 will have no height limits and no parking requirements, and the changes Cohen signed off on mean that that parcel 1 is outside of the overall 3 million square foot limit of the overall development plan.
“The benefit to building more density is numerous for the city,” Flesher said. “From an economic perspective, there was no downside because they didn’t have to do anything other than this legislation… They don’t have to build more roads because the roads are already here, you’re just building taller.”