By Hannah Hildebrandt
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Baltimore City Council approved a $660 million tax increment financing (TIF) package this week that moves Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s $5.5 billion Port Covington project one step closer to being built.
The bonds – which will be paid back by the developer, the Sagamore Development Co., in future taxes – will cover the cost of infrastructure improvements to the site on the Patapsco River.
Sagamore is seeking to build a multi-use development that will include retail spots, hotels, residential areas and a new headquarters for Under Armour – the nation’s 2nd most popular sports apparel company.
A group of activists protested the development of Port Covington outside of City Hall as members of the council entered the chambers.
The protestors said the city should be spending money to create more affordable housing for Baltimore citizens in the area instead of investing in new development plans that help large corporations.
Cardboard boxes stacked to resemble a city skyline and labeled as Baltimore’s new affordable housing plan stood behind the protestors as they shook a tin of change labeled “The Kevin Plank Fund.”
“You don’t have any loose change for Kevin Plank?” protestor Matt Quinlan asked Rob English, the lead organizer of Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD), as he entered city hall. BUILD is a community organization that supports the project and is asking Sagamore to hire local residents for all Port Covington-related jobs.
“We could do so much more for Baltimore,” lead protestor Anthony Williams said. “We need to do something about crime, abandoned property and air conditioning in schools.”
Those in favor of the development believe it will have a huge positive impact on Baltimore.
“It is the first major TIF that the entire city will benefit from,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, the co-chair of BUILD.
Port Covington will attract more people, revitalize an area of Baltimore that has been dormant, and add employment opportunities whether they be in construction or within the finished development, Miles said.
Council members Bill Henry and Mary Pat Clark abstained from the vote while Council member Warren Branch voted against the package.
“This is such a great opportunity,” Clark said. “But I couldn’t say ‘amen’ because of some undone work.”
The idea to build affordable housing in Port Covington did not influence her vote, she said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will need to sign the financing plan before development can begin.