The developers of Port Covington are starting 2021 with a burst of construction activity that is expected to add five major new buildings to south Baltimore starting in late 2022.

The team behind the 235-acre development announced that it has “finalized” financing for development projects that will bring 1.1 million square feet of commercial and residential space to formerly underutilized land overlooking the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

The projects represent an investment of $650 million and will help form the nucleus of a new city-within-a-city planned along East Cromwell Street, east of Hanover Street.

In all, the next five buildings will contain 440,000 square feet of office space; 116,000 square feet of retail space; more than 1,000 parking spaces; 537 residencies or extended-stay hotel rooms, plus more than 10 acres of parks and public space.

They’re expected to be completed starting in late 2022 by a team that includes Weller Development Company, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and Sagamore Ventures.

In conjunction with the financing, the team distributed more than $9 million in community revitalization funds to the South Baltimore 7 (SB7) Coalition, a group that represents communities along the Middle Branch and has a Community Benefits funding agreement with the developers.

Civic leaders hailed the financing and construction activity as a milestone for one of the largest urban revitalization efforts in the country.

“This is an example of collaboration between the developer, city government and residents that will create thousands of jobs for local residents, invest in the surrounding neighborhoods and generate economic impact across the city,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “I’m committed to ensuring the Port Covington project is a benefit for the local South Baltimore community and speaks to how we can do business in an equitable, inclusive and accountable way.”

“It is exciting to see this transformational project moving forward despite the many challenges the global pandemic brought,” said  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, adding that the project can lead to “significant economic growth not only for Baltimore City, but our entire state.”

The capitalization includes approximately $137 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bonds, approved by the city leaders to help pay for infrastructure improvements such as roads and public spaces connecting individual buildings.

“The TIF bond sale was met with overwhelming demand, and the overall deal successfully closed last week, which is significant proof of institutional investors’ belief in the future success of the project,” said Kevin Plank, a lead investor in Port Covington. “We are thrilled about this important milestone, and what it means in validating our vision.”

The five buildings still have unglamorous names that denote what site along the Cromwell Street corridor they’ll occupy. The breakdown includes:

Building E1: 162 residences and 40,000 square feet of retail space.  Architect: Torti Gallas + Partners.

Building E5A: 212,000 square feet of office space and 9,500 square feet of retail space. Architect: MGMA Design.

Building E5B: 40 residences, 81 extended-stay units and 6,000 square feet of retail space. Architect: Hord Coplan Macht.

Building E6: 254 residences and 16,000 square feet of retail space. Architect: Hord Coplan Macht.

Building E7: A 45,000-square-foot commercial area called the Rye Street Market and 228,000 square feet of office and meeting space. This is the first building in Baltimore by a well-known New York design firm, Morris Adjmi Architects, with MGMA Design as the architect of record.

Businesses, organizations and destinations already located in Port Covington include Sagamore Spirit Distillery; Rye Street Tavern; Nick’s Fish House; Under Armour; City Garage; the Baltimore Sun Media Group; two marinas; Swann Park; West Covington Park; and Impact Village, which provides complimentary office space to startups and nonprofits whose work benefits the community.

The developers say they expect to have a formal groundbreaking celebration for the latest projects in February.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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