Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - FEATURES -

In April 2015, when Bal­ti­more­ans took to the streets to protest po­lice bru­tal­ity af­ter the death of Fred­die Gray, Plank was trou­bled by na­tional news cov­er­age that made it seem as if the en­tire city was erupt­ing in vi­o­lence, when much of it was un­scathed. He un­der­stood that as a fast-grow­ing com­pany, Un­der Ar­mour would un­doubt­edly play a role in shap­ing the city’s fu­ture. But he was also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware that as an in­di­vid­ual with a bil­lion-dol­lar net worth, he too could have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. “We don’t have a lot of peo­ple do­ing stuff here [in Baltimore],” Plank says. “I can use the heat and mo­men­tum [of Un­der Ar­mour] and, frankly, my bal­ance sheet to get things started and keep things mov­ing. Some­one’s got to be the first stone in the stone soup. Then some­one else will bring the car­rots and the poul­try. But we’re that first stone.”

In Jan­uary, Sag­amore an­nounced its plans for Port Cov­ing­ton, which in­clude a 4 mil­lion­square-foot head­quar­ters for Un­der Ar­mour and much, much more. Over the next 20 years, Sag­amore in­tends to es­sen­tially build a neigh­bor­hood from scratch. Com­pris­ing al­most 50 city blocks, Port Cov­ing­ton will be larger than Baltimore’s best-known tourist at­trac­tion, the In­ner Har­bor, and one of the big­gest ur­ban re­newal projects un­der way in the U.S. If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, Port Cov­ing­ton

will be home to 7,500 hous­ing units, a ho­tel, shop­ping, two ligh­trail stops, and a sta­ble for the city’s po­lice horses.

“There aren’t many CEOs who would take their per­sonal cap­i­tal and de­ploy it like this,” says Tom Ged­des, CEO of Plank In­dus­tries, the pri­vately held com­pany that serves as Plank’s per­sonal in­vest­ment arm. “The one ex­am­ple we look at a lot is Dan Gil­bert,” the chair­man of Quicken Loans, who has spent more than $1.5 bil­lion buy­ing up down­town prop­erty in Detroit since 2010. “He’s some­one else who looked at his big com­pany and said, This thing is an en­gine. If I in­vest around it and pull to­gether a crit­i­cal mass, I can re­ally make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.”

In cities strug­gling with postin­dus­trial dis­in­vest­ment and high rates of un­em­ploy­ment and poverty, such in­vestors are of­ten treated as sav­iors. “I would like to also ex­tend a sense of deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion and true ex­cite­ment on the part of the city for what we see pre­sented here,” Baltimore’s city plan­ning di­rec­tor, Tom Sto­sur, said af­ter Sag­amore re­vealed the Port Cov­ing­ton mas­ter plan.

Plank’s ideas for Port Cov­ing­ton have also faced crit­i­cism that cuts against the sav­ior nar­ra­tive, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Sag­amore an­nounced this spring that the ar­range­ment would seek $1.1 bil­lion in sup­port from lo­cal, state, and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing $535 mil­lion in tax in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing, or TIF, from the city of Baltimore. The TIF money would go to­ward in­fras­truc­ture im­prove­ments and come from mu­nic­i­pal bonds is­sued by the city to be re­paid by new prop­erty taxes even­tu­ally gen­er­ated by the project. Mu­niCap, a Mary­land con­sult­ing firm that an­a­lyzed the project, es­ti­mates it won’t cre­ate enough tax rev­enue to re­pay the TIF un­til 2038. More wor­ry­ing, per­haps, is that the

A new Un­der Ar­mour in­jec­tion mold­ing tech­nique (be­low left); lasts used to form-fit footwear

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