When Sagamore Development, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s development arm, first announced its plans to build what’s essentially an entirely new neighborhood surrounding the future Under Armour headquarters, response around town was largely ecstatic.
The idea seemed to be that by keeping Under Armour, a thriving (and rapidly growing) company in Baltimore, Plank was basically going to be Baltimore’s savior. Or at least, that’s how some people reacted. To name just one example, Baltimore’s city planning director Tom Stosur expressed “a sense of deep appreciation and true excitement” after Sagamore revealed the Port Covington master plan earlier this year.
But now that Sagamore has requested a record-breaking bond deal from the city, the plans for Port Covington are getting some attention–and scrutiny–from the national media. This week, both Slate and Jacobin published critical takes on the plan.
From Rachel Cohen’s piece in Slate:
At a time when Baltimore is still reeling from the mass unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody last year, the deal—as it’s currently structured—strikes many locals as a handout to the well-heeled. They have a point….Baltimore has a long record of inequitable public investment, with political leaders financing flashy projects in mostly white areas and profits rarely trickling back into the poor, black communities that need funding most. The fear now being expressed by local progressive organizations, housing activists, and labor unions is that for all the prosperity it will bring Kevin Plank and Under Armour, Sagamore’s TIF plan may turn out to be just another chapter in Baltimore’s history of bad development deals.
And from Lester Spence in Jacobin:
Baltimore doesn’t have the money to pay for its recreation centers, and just a few months ago outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared it couldn’t pay for the youth unemployment programs it created in the wake of the uprising. Yet it can still find the resources for Plank’s project (and police spending, which increased by 310 percent since 1990).
It’d be one thing if both developments at least had some sort of public debate. But in both cases, the public has been the last to know. Plank had a series of meetings with the Greater Baltimore Committee [sic], but they were closed to both the public and the media and were found to have violated the open meetings act.
Both critical takes raise good points, though Spence makes it sound as though the city is taking money out of its general fund to bankroll Plank’s project–which isn’t the case at all. But as both Cohen and Spence point out, this would be an unprecedented development for Baltimore, and it sure seems to be moving forward very quickly. (The city planning commission is expected to vote on the master plan later this week.) A little more scrutiny is certainly not a bad thing.
CORRECTION: Sagamore Development met in private session with the Baltimore Development Corporation, not the Greater Baltimore Committee, as Lester Spence incorrectly states in The Jacobin story excerpted above.
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