It’s campaign season in Baltimore, but one of the splashiest media pushes of the month isn’t from a candidate for office. Ads for the South Baltimore development Port Covington have been running on prime time TV this week. Even if a viewer isn’t aware that the neighborhood-sized property south of I-95 is owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, there are clues that it may be from Under Armour. There are a few shots of the company’s current headquarters in Locust Point and shield on a child’s sweatshirt, but at this point those are part of any average Baltimore landscape. Then, “We Will” flashes across the screen.
The emphasis doesn’t have a hashtag, but it nevertheless presents itself as a direct cousin of Under Armour’s “I Will” campaign. If it weren’t from the Under Armour family, the apparel giant would probably sue. To properly reflect the theme of the latest ad campaign, the variation is key. Instead of being about the company and self-improvement, it’s about Baltimore and the city’s next chapter. And there is a specific purpose to what we will do, which is “build it together.” Here’s the full Port Covington ad and website.
So, the viewer may ask, what role do I play in this? The ad leaves one assuming that they will be invited into this new and inclusive development. In January, the first details came out about the grand plans for the 266-acre project, which will include a new Under Armour campus, the distillery for Plank’s rye company, shops, parks, residential units and more. The political part came in this week. The taxpaying city population found out that it would be asked to contribute to the project. Plank-backed development firm Sagamore Development is asking for $535 million in tax increment financing (TIF) from the city. The money would cover costs for improvements to the elements of the development that city government maintains, such as “streets, utilities, parks, highways and transit improvements,” the Baltimore Sun reports. The state and federal government will also be asked to contribute to the total infrastructure cost for the project, which would be $1.1 billion.
Seemingly on cue, WBAL-TV reported that a hole opened up in the Hanover Street bridge, which leads into the area from the south and is currently being studied for potential repairs. While it’s not clear if bridge repairs would be part of Sagamore’s infrastructure request, the quickly-patched hole seemed to provide a hint about infrastructure needs in the area.
The complete details of the TIF request have yet to be made fully aired in public, and no public poll numbers have been released. Nevertheless, the candidates for mayor were asked about Port Covington during a debate at Morgan State University. Candidates indicated they were skeptical of the TIF request, which would be the largest in Baltimore history. The candidates appeared initially skeptical, bringing up questions about whether the development would employ city residents, or help other neighborhoods. Councilman Nick Mosby asked why Under Armour isn’t creating more jobs locally with a manufacturing plant here, too.
At least until the April 26 mayoral primary, the debates appear set to play out side-by-side. Get ready for more commercials.
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