Following months of pressure to perform, a new team of developers tasked with leasing up South Baltimore’s sprawling Port Covington waterfront project reached an agreement this week for some 100,000 square feet of office space, according to three people with knowledge of the deal.
The deal with CFG Bank, a commercial bank currently headquartered near Lake Roland, encompasses about 20% of the roughly 500,000 square feet of office space included in the project’s initial phase. Bank employees learned of the impending move Wednesday, the three sources said. They spoke to The Baltimore Banner on background to speak freely of the arrangement, which has not yet been finalized.
It’s not clear if the bank also will keep its Baltimore County headquarters or how many employees it expects to move into the city. Representatives for the bank declined to comment Wednesday.
A spokesperson from New York-based MAG Partners, which along with San Francisco-based MacFarlane partners, joined the Port Covington team earlier this year to handle leasing and marketing, said while they can’t comment on any specific deals, they are seeing “incredible momentum and interest from potential tenants in Baltimore and around the country.”
“We expect to have a number of leases to announce in the coming months as we move closer to construction completion for the first phase of the project,” a statement from MAG Partners said.
The project, shepherded by Under Armour founder and chairman Kevin Plank and his Sagamore Ventures development company, has for years endured intense public scrutiny. The 177-acre effort — composed of 14 million square feet of proposed new development spanning 45 city blocks — landed the largest tax-increment financing deal ever proposed in Baltimore in 2016. The money, often called a TIF as shorthand, comes from municipal bonds and is supposed to be repaid through new property taxes generated by the project.
Critics of the project have questioned the size of the subsidy for Sagamore given the city’s other pressing needs. Then, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the project endured delays and its vision as a hub for cyber companies collapsed as the nature of in-person work shifted to a remote model. The TIF’s repayment hinges on developers’ ability to lease the space.
Earlier this year, partners Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group within Goldman Sachs Asset Management announced they would be replacing Weller Development Group, the project’s lead developer. Weller will exit the project after finishing phase 1B, leaving the new teams to direct future development and construction as well as leasing.
In an interview with The Baltimore Banner earlier this year, Weller Development president and CEO Marc Weller said he always planned to leave the project before its completion; such is the nature of large-scale developments that span several years, he said.
Since entering the fold in the spring, MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners have been meeting with potential tenants and marketing the space for companies with community impact and those that are drawn to Port Covington’s mission of uplifting Baltimore. CFG Bank, founded by John W. “Jack” Dwyer in 1993, appears to fit the bill. In 2021 the bank launched Dwyer Workforce Development, a nonprofit designed to alleviate the healthcare labor shortage and support older adults. The bank also supports community partners including the National Aquarium, Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, Living Classrooms and Special Olympics Maryland, according to its website.