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Port Covington developer inks $40 million deal with South Baltimore communities

Rachel Baye

The company behind the planned Port Covington development announced Thursday a multi-million-dollar arrangement with six nearby neighborhoods in South Baltimore.

The deal with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development is expected to result in roughly $40 million for the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mount Winans and Westport, which together make up the South Baltimore Six, or SB6.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring resources, desperately needed resources, to the South Baltimore communities that’s being represented by the coalition,” said Michael Middleton, chairman of the Cherry Hill Community Coalition and one of the leaders in the effort to bring about the community benefits agreement.

Middleton said he grew up in the public housing in Cherry Hill, and for the last six or seven decades, the area hasn’t seen much development at all.

“The six communities surrounding what's known as Port Covington along this side has almost served as the armpit for the city,” he said. “Everything negative that you want from urban life basically dwells here in this area.”

But Middleton and the others who spent much of the last three months meeting twice a week with Sagamore Development said the agreement could bring much-awaited change.

The funding will come gradually over 30 years.

Tom Geddes, CEO of Sagamore’s parent company, Plank Industries, lauded the long-term nature of the deal at a news conference Thursday.

“This funding mechanism will still be in place when I’m almost 70 years old,” he said. “It will have a profound positive impact on South Baltimore for generations to come.”

Sagamore will give SB6 $10 million — the first million when the city approves the company’s request for public financing for Port Covington. The developer will help the coalition raise another $10 million dollars from outside sources. The rest will come from the businesses that lease or buy space in the new Port Covington development over the length of the deal.

Brooklyn activist Andrea Mayer, who was involved in the negotiations, said SB6 has a long list of ideas for how to spend the money.

“We want to improve the parks and the playgrounds,” she said. “We want a business incubator, more libraries, obviously beautification of the streets. My gosh, an employment connection center. We want to do things like computers and laptops for the schools.”

And Sagamore will also have a voice in determining how the money gets spent.

State Sen. Bill Ferguson, who represents South Baltimore and sat in the negotiations, acknowledged that many of the desired improvements are things the city would normally take care of, if it had the resources.

“We're in an interesting place in Baltimore because there are inexhaustible needs, and I think there are a lot of elected officials, residents, stakeholders who are doing what they feel like they can with limited resources to address these needs,” he said. “We simply don't have the capacity right now to meet every neighborhood's demand."

Diane Glauber, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who helped SB6 with the negotiations, said money isn’t the only benefit SB6 gets. Sagamore has also committed to help the neighborhoods with technical assistance in areas such as economic development and housing where the developer has experience.

In exchange, Sagamore gains support for the Port Covington proposal, in the face of controversy over the public financing arrangement.

Middleton, of Cherry Hill, said he understands the policy debate, but for his community, Sagamore presents an opportunity too good to pass up.

“We waited for 70 years, and when does it become sufficient enough time to bring opportunity to communities like Cherry Hill or Westport or Mount Winans?” he asked. “How long do we wait? I mean, to me, one minute is too long."

The City Council has a public hearing scheduled on Port Covington’s tax increment financing proposal for the end of the month.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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