Com­mu­nity ben­e­fit deal OK’d for Port Cov­ing­ton

Board of Es­ti­mates ap­proves $100 mil­lion plan that in­cludes train­ing and loans

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Luke Broad­wa­ter lbroad­wa­ter@balt­ twit­ luke­broad­wa­ter

Bal­ti­more’s spend­ing panel voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day to ap­prove a $100 mil­lion com­mu­nity ben­e­fits deal signed by city of­fi­cials and the de­vel­op­ers of Un­der Ar­mour CEO Kevin Plank’s Port Cov­ing­ton project.

Of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Bernard C. “Jack” Young em­pha­sized that the deal in­cludes an au­di­tor ded­i­cated solely to Port Cov­ing­ton. They said the au­di­tor will en­sure that Plank’s Sag­amore De­vel­op­ment Co. fol­lows through on its pledge to build an in­clu­sive project that em­ploys lo­cal res­i­dents at good wages.

“I look for­ward to them be­ing in com­pli­ance,” Pratt said. “We’re go­ing to hold their feet to the fire.”

The $100 mil­lion deal — which was an­nounced last week but re­quired the ap­proval of the Board of Es­ti­mates — builds off a $39 mil­lion agree­ment be­tween the developer and six neigh­bor­hoods near the project. That agree­ment in­cludes $25 mil­lion to train work­ers at a new Port Cov­ing­ton train­ing cen­ter and $10 mil­lion in no-in­ter­est loans or other fund­ing streams for mi­nor­ity- or women-owned star­tups.

The de­vel­op­ers agreed to hire at least 30 per­cent of all in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion work­ers from Bal­ti­more, pay at least $17.48 an hour, and set aside 20 per­cent of hous­ing units for poor and mid­dle-class fam­i­lies. (Forty per­cent of that hous­ing may be built else­where in the city.)

If the cost of park land at Port Cov­ing­ton that Sag­amore will do­nate to the city is in­cluded, Young said, the to­tal ben­e­fits pack­age is more than $135 mil­lion.

“When you look at past pack­ages we re­ceived as a city, where we hardly got any­thing, and you look at $135.9 mil­lion, I call that a ma­jor win for the city of Bal­ti­more,” Young said. “It’s un­prece­dented that we get $135.9 mil­lion. I think we did very good as a city to get that out of the de­vel­op­ment.”

Crit­ics say the lan­guage on af­ford­able hous­ing is weak. It re­quires 10 per­cent of Port Cov­ing­ton’s af­ford­able hous­ing units to be built for peo­ple who make less than $26,000, and con­tains what crit­ics call a “loop­hole” that al­lows the developer to pay money into a fund in­stead of build­ing the units.

Unions want higher wages for con­struc­tion work­ers.

Young said the coun­cil is open to ac­com­mo­dat­ing more union work­ers if they are will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate.

“Two unions al­ready signed on,” he said. “The door is still open for those unions to come in and ne­go­ti­ate. The door is not shut.”

Sag­amore has pro­posed a $5.5 bil­lion water­front de­vel­op­ment that would in­clude a new head­quar­ters for Un­der Ar­mour, restau­rants, shops, hous­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing space. The land in­cludes the site of The Bal­ti­more Sun’s print­ing plant, for which the news­pa­per has a long-term lease.

Sag­amore has asked the city to float $660 mil­lion in bonds to build in­fra­struc­ture for the project. The developer would have to pay back the bonds through fu­ture taxes.

The com­mu­nity ben­e­fits deal was widely seen as the key to get­ting the coun­cil to is­sue the bonds. Twelve of 15 City Coun­cil mem­bers have al­ready given pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval to the bonds. The coun­cil is ex­pected to take a fi­nal vote next week.

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