Sagamore Development Unveils Master Plan for Port Covington

| January 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

The team from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development and Elkus Manfredi Architects recently revealed the master plan for Port Covington, a 266-acre section of the South Baltimore peninsula south of I-95 that includes more than two miles of waterfront. Sagamore currently owns 161 acres in Port Covington from recent acquisitions, which it described as 85% of the private parcels. Sagamore envisions a 50-acre campus for Under Armour; 76 acres of mixed-use real estate development; 114 acres of public realm between parks, infrastructure, and open space; and, an existing 26 acre NGK-Locke, Inc. facility which Sagamore does not own.

Sagamore Development President and Partner Marc D. Weller described the multi-billion dollar development as transformational, “it stands to make a huge difference for Baltimore and many people’s lives. It’s one of the largest urban renewal projects in America.” Weller added that Sagamore feels “honored” to be involved in this project. David Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi Architects called it “one of the extraordinary urban projects in this country” because of its scale and impact.

Port Covington was originally the home to Fort Covington, used to defend Baltimore during the War of 1812, and later became a depot for the Western Maryland railroad where it was used to ship coal from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia off its piers. Most recently the framework for a shopping center was developed on a 59-acre parcel of Port Covington, but only a Walmart and Sam’s Club ever opened at the center with the Sam’s Club closing its doors in 2007. Sagamore purchased the failed shopping center in 2013 and the former Sam’s Club building is currently nearing the completion of a renovation into a 170,000 sq. ft. office building for Under Amour’s finance and IT department. Under Armour’s future campus and “global headquarters” will occupy most of the shopping center property.

Another proposed development at Port Covington that failed was a 2008 Streuver Bros. Eccles & Rouse project that pitched 2 million sq. ft. of residential, retail, and office space adjacent to the shopping center at 301 E. Cromwell St. The project never began and construction is now underway for the Sagamore Spirit distillery at the site. Sagamore Spirit is a rye whiskey company inspired by by the water from the limestone spring at Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, MD. Through research, Ayers Saint Gross, the architect on the project, discovered the site was coincidentally once home to another distillery before becoming a rail yard. The plan for Sagamore Spirit distillery includes four buildings that are designed to feel like a part of a waterfront park.

Sagamore_Aerial_North - Copy

One other project that Sagamore has already taken on at Port Covington is the recently-completed City Garage, named for the building’s former use as a garage for Baltimore City. It is a 133,000 sq. ft. facility at 101 W. Dickman St. described as “a hub for manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship.” 

Before diving into the details of the master plan, which was announced will likely be a 15-20 year project, Weller noted that it is important that “people are able to get here.” Sagamore wants to make sure that people from all directions are able to access the new development. Weller believes the construction of I-95, which separates Port Covington from the rest of South Baltimore, is a big reason this development opportunity was available to them.

To achieve this connectivity, Sagamore is proposing many transportation access points and projects for the area. This includes modified bus routes and express bus routes, a water taxi line with three proposed stops along the eastern shore of Port Covington, many bike share stations, a spur-off the Light Rail from Westport that will include two new stops along McComas St, and a circulating bus route for the development. Weller said the team has already met with the Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA).

The team is also proposing two pedestrian and bike bridges to improve access to the site from the South Baltimore Neighborhood and Westport. One would connect the 1900 blocks of Light and Charles St. going over the train tracks and under I-95. The neighborhood is currently only connected to Port Covington at Hanover St. which is criticized by many for its lack of pedestrian friendliness entering Port Covington. The connection to Westport would include a reconstruction of the Spring Garden Bridge, which was originally a rail bridge that connects West Covington and Westport. This would be part of Baltimore City’s Middle Branch Master Plan which proposes a pedestrian loop around the Middle Branch. Sagamore says it supports the plan and will play its part to help see it come to fruition.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) also recently launched a $1.8 million study to research improvements to Hanover St. and the Hanover Street Bridge from Wells St. in South Baltimore to Reedbird Ave. in Cherry Hill. Pedestrian friendliness will be a focus of the study.

Sagamore has broken the Port Covington development into several sections that will have different characteristics and uses. The Under Armour campus, which will include 3 million sq. ft. of office space, will replace the shopping center at the southeastern tip of Port Covington. Those plans will be revealed by Under Armour. Just northeast of there and adjacent to Sagamore Spirit will be an area known as East Waterfront. This area will be highlighted by restaurant, retail, entertainment, and hospitality facilities as well as a park system along the water. A new eco-park will be built on a small existing peninsula between Under Armour’s campus and Sagamore Spirit.

Park Rendering

Sagamore is developing the entire development with environmental sensitivity and it is hoping to get people out of their cars. Most of the parking at the development will be centralized closer to I-95 so that people walk through the neighborhood and towards the waterfront. It is looking to achieve a transportation modal split of 50% private motor vehicles and 50% walking, biking and transit. A study conducted by the team revealed that motor vehicles currently have a 74% share in Baltimore City.

The majority of the residential projects will also be placed closer to I-95. Sagamore envisions the tallest buildings would be closest to I-95 and lower-level buildings towards the waterfront to preserve views. Sagamore was mum on building heights for the development at this time, but said it would love to see a few “signature buildings” in the development.

Near the current site of The Baltimore Sun, Sagamore is proposing a new passive recreation park called Founders’ Park. The oval-shaped park will be surrounded by office and retail projects and will be the center of many road grids. Manfredi said New York’s Bryant Park is an inspiration for the space. Sagamore said The Baltimore Sun has a long-term lease on its building and described the organization as a “great tenant.” Sagamore owns the property and all the land surrounding the building.

West of Hanover St. at an area known currently as West Covington will be West End. There will be bigger foot prints and the team envisions commodity retail or bigger stores, maker spaces, offices, residential areas, and parking. City Garage is located in West End.

Parks will be a huge focus of the development. Along with the waterfront parks at East Waterfront and Founders’ Park, the team is proposing more active recreation parks along the Middle Branch in West End. The entire development will have bike paths and will be built for pedestrian friendliness.

The space underneath I-95 along McComas St. is envisioned as an “urban playground” used as an “incentive to come further into the development.” Recreation facilities, such as basketball courts and skateparks, are proposed for this area.

The team noted how the Hanover Street Bridge could be transformed with better lighting. A plan for government services at Port Covington, including police horse stables, was also mentioned.

Weller said the market will dictate the phasing of development at Port Covington but said they plan to cluster development near activity. Weller sees East Waterfront as a likely starting point feeding off of Sagamore Spirit. Weller said there will not be an arena at Port Covington, but there could be a future music venue. Weller also said the team has reached out the the federal, state, and city government for help on the infrastructure of the project.

When asked about Westport, the 45-acre parcel Sagamore bought at auction along the Middle Branch, the team said it is not pursing Pat Turner’s former plan. Turner proposed a billion dollar-plus mixed-used development that fell into foreclosure. The team’s immediate focus is to improve conditions of the Middle Branch, which includes improving the shoreline and river plain as well as reconstructing the Spring Garden Bridge.

Sagamore expects to spend of most of 2016 engaged in the planning process as the master plan becomes more comprehensive. It is having its first meeting with the Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) today.

The team is also actively working on acquiring additional parcels in the area.

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Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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