Over the next two decades, the aging, underutilized industrial section of South Baltimore known as Port Covington is poised to experience a renaissance through a proposed economic development project anchored by the Under Armour global headquarters.
If approved, the Port Covington Redevelopment Project will become one of the largest urban revitalization projects supported with tax increment financing (TIF) in the U.S.
The planned development covers 260 acres and three miles of Chesapeake Bay waterfront near Interstate 95, the Port of Baltimore’s Cruise Terminal, and the Fort McHenry National Monument.
The private development team behind the Port Covington Redevelopment Project, Sagamore Development Corporation, is setting its sights on transforming the area into a thriving, dynamic neighborhood featuring shops, restaurants, homes, businesses and public parks.
The City of Baltimore is backing the $5.5 billion economic development project with political and financial support. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff provides advisory, coordination and technical services for the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (BCDOT) on the project, which will dedicate $1.1 billion to upgrading local, state and privately-owned infrastructure.
Sagamore has requested $535 million in TIF from the City of Baltimore. TIF allows municipalities to promote economic development and finance public infrastructure by devoting future property tax revenue from increases in assessed values within a designated development district.
The WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff team involved in the project is leading and assisting BCDOT to successfully deliver and manage the Port Covington transportation program, including technical review and coordination, communications, and general oversight of infrastructure improvements related to the Port Covington Development that are determined to be the responsibility of Baltimore City.
“In essence, the scope of this assignment for our firm is to represent the Baltimore City Department of Transportation and protect its interests with regard to Port Covington and Sagamore Development,” said Billy Hwang, project manager for WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. “We want to make sure that BCDOT is coordinating and communicating effectively with the developer, other agencies, elected officials, media and communities so that our client can effectively focus on its other priorities.”
The Port Covington Redevelopment Project is expected to include the construction of 1.5 million square feet of destination, attraction, entertainment and specialty retail buildings; over 7,500 residential units; 500,000 square feet of industrial and light manufacturing space; more than 200 hotel rooms; 1.5 million square feet of office space; and other civic and public land uses, including 40 acres of waterfront parks.
Hwang said WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is making sure the development plan delivers an adequate level of access to Port Covington by multiple forms of transportation. The firm is acting as a liaison between BCDOT, the State of Maryland – which is co-sponsoring environmental review of highway improvements – and Sagamore Development, to ensure transportation-related needs and concerns of both parties are properly communicated and addressed.
“The transportation infrastructure today in Port Covington supports the relatively minor level of traffic generated by industrial and former commercial uses on the peninsula, including a now-closed Walmart and Sam’s Club and a functioning newspaper printing and distribution center,” Hwang said. “The redevelopment of Port Covington envisions significant upgrades as part of its master plan to achieve a modal split goal of 50 percent non-automobile travel in a city where non-auto travel is far and away the dominant mode and transit infrastructure is limited.”
Infrastructure plans include a possible light rail spur, a bicycle/pedestrian bridge under the Interstate 95 viaduct and over the active CSX rail yard, rehabilitation of the Spring Garden Swing Bridge as a pedestrian and bike facility, and the creation of a street grid where none currently exists.
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff began work for BCDOT on the project in April and is targeting completion of the first phase in October.
Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports clothing and equipment company, is the key project anchor, with plans to develop a new global headquarters and corporate campus on 50 acres of the site. The campus includes more than 3.9 million square feet of corporate office, studio, operations, and amenity space for its employees.
“Under Armour recently purchased the property they will be developing from Sagamore and have an aggressive plan to more than double their number of employees to approximately 10,000, after full build out, at its new world headquarters,” said Sam Minnitte, principal-in-charge for the project.
Construction of the Under Armour campus is expected to begin in early 2017, and will be built in phases over the next 15 years.
With a solid anchor committed to the project, Port Covington is in a position to make a tremendous impact on the Baltimore economy.
“I think all of us – WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, the City of Baltimore, and stakeholders all around the region – are rooting for the redevelopment of Port Covington,” Minnitte said. “With the amount of support the city is providing to the project, there are high expectations that the developer can deliver on its promises to create thousands of jobs, build green spaces and parks, preserve and enhance public access to the waterfront, provide outdoor recreation opportunities and bring significant long-term economic benefit to the city, the state, and the region.”
The advisory work WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is doing for Port Covington creates a template for similar urban redevelopment projects in other metropolitan areas in need of assistance with their economic development portfolio.
“Many local departments of transportation do not have the capacity to manage the day-to-day operations related to the demands of economic development in their cities or counties, as well as the analysis required to inform decision-making and budgeting related to major economic development projects,” Hwang said. “The team working on this Port Covington task, consisting of advisory services and transportation and infrastructure members, is filling this void for BCDOT.”
The WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff team also includes Elizabeth Neely, lead planner; Jackie Seneschal, environmental specialist; Matt Harrell, lead engineer; Heather Martin, transportation planner; Mark Cheskey, environmental planner; and Lauren Waesche, traffic engineer.
To learn more about WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff services and projects, visit www.usadvisory.wsp-pb.com.