Starting Tuesday, Port Covington, the 235-acre waterfront development in South Baltimore, will go by a new name: Baltimore Peninsula.
The change, made public this week, is an attempt by new developers at the New York-based MAG Partners and the San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners to turn a page on a contentious project that has faced delays, turnover and public criticism, particularly for its heavy reliance on subsidies at the expense of Baltimore’s other needs. Supporters of the effort argue that the finished product will add jobs, stimulate economic growth, and attract visitors and more residents to Baltimore.
MAG Partners CEO and founder MaryAnne Gilmartin and her team also have revised the project’s master plan and expect the final layout of the project to look different from what developers pitched in 2016. For example, they want to stretch the original Founders Park into a linear, diagonal “green artery” that connects the center of the new neighborhood and waterfront with the rest of the city. They also want to better connect to the rest of South Baltimore and Interstate 95 and have proposed adding a “connection” above the CSX tracks at Hanover and McComas Streets.
Gilmartin, in a Monday interview, said the change in name reflects a shift from “a place on a map” to a living, breathing community. She described Baltimore Peninsula’s vision as inclusive, mission-oriented and dynamic.
“All our actions need to reflect that vision,” she said.
Victor MacFarlane, chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners, added: “We’re here because we believe in Baltimore’s growth.”
Gilmartin and MacFarlane highlighted their commitment to minority and women business participation in the development as well as affordable housing; the first two residential buildings — to be called Rye House and 250 Mission, with more than 400 units between them — are expected to open this March and will have 20% of the units below market rate, they said. On Monday, they also announced a partnership with Sweeten, a software company that publicly tracks their minority- and women-owned business participation goals.
Attached to one of the largest public subsidies in the country, the $5.5 billion, multi-phase waterfront development in South Baltimore spans more than 200 acres and will feature three direct access points to I-95. Under Armour founder and Executive Chairman Kevin Plank and those affiliated with his Sagamore Ventures development firm spent more than $100 million since they began buying up Port Covington land about a decade ago.
A current goal is to build the once-dominant apparel company a new corporate headquarters surrounded by a “mini-city” akin to the existing Harbor East and Harbor Point sites.
The Baltimore City Council approved the city’s largest tax increment financing deal — $660 million — in 2016 to help fund the project. The project has also qualified for federal Enterprise Zone tax breaks.
Since then, Under Armour’s corporate image has soured amid company scandals, high-profile departures and declining sales, forcing the company to tone down its plans for the new offices. Meanwhile, several iterations of plans for what Port Covington could become — including a hub for technology companies called Cyber Town USA — have not come to pass.
Gilmartin, though, told The Baltimore Banner in an interview earlier this month that the project will be successful, so long as it rebrands and commits to sharing a more positive story.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the City will continue to benefit from the momentum and energy that has resulted from the creation of this new waterfront neighborhood,” Plank said in a Tuesday statement. “The impact is undeniable.”