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TIF financing of final phase of Harbor Point is approved

A tale of two city-subsidized projects: Harbor Point approaches completion, while Port Covington searches for tenants.

Above: The Exelon Tower at Harbor Point has become a prominent feature on the city’s waterfront. (Fern Shen)

The Board of Estimates is set tomorrow to approve a final slug of tax increment (TIF) financing for Michael Beatty’s upscale development at Harbor Point.

The 27-acre site, sandwiched between Fells Point and Harbor East, features the soaring Exelon tower and the city’s most expensive 260-foot-long bridge, which connects the peninsula to Central  Avenue.

Under a 2013 agreement with the City Council and the Rawlings-Blake administration, Beatty secured $107 million in public TIF funding for infrastructure improvements.

Since then, unexpected cost overruns for the bridge, a sewer pumping station and amenities for a public square fronting the Exelon building helped push up the tab for TIF-financed endeavors to about $125 million.

Tomorrow’s expected approval of $39 million in TIF bonds, making for a total $164 million in public financing for Harbor Point, will fund infrastructure for the last major phase of the project, including 4.5 acres of public open space.

7/20 UPDATE: The BOE approved the bonding expenditure without comment today. Voting “yes” were City Council President Nick Mosby, Comptroller Bill Henry and Finance Director Henry Raymond, who filled in for an absent Mayor Brandon Scott.

Scott, Mosby and Henry were all members of the City Council that approved TIF financing for Harbor Point in 2013.

Depiction of T. Rowe Price's planned global headquarters at HarborPoint on the Baltimore waterfront. (beatty.co)

Sketch of T. Rowe Price’s planned twin buildings at Harbor Point. (harborpoint.com)

Extended-Stay Hotel

Beatty Development has announced three new projects starting construction this year – a new global headquarters for T. Rowe Price (which will vacate its current quarters at 100 East Pratt Street downtown), a 500-unit apartment building with street-level retail and restaurants, and a Marriott extended-stay hotel.

They will join the 17-story Point Street Apartments, the 12-story Wills Wharf complex and Morgan Stanley’s waterfront offices at the west end of Thames Street.

Will they come? Four of the five buildings under construction at Port Covington, all of them devoid of prospective tenants. (Mark Reutter)

But will they come? Four of the five buildings at Port Covington that are devoid of announced tenants. (Mark Reutter)

Unleased Port Covington

Harbor Point had been Baltimore’s biggest private development until Under Armour founder Kevin Plank purchased 250 acres at Port Covington, a former railroad yard about two miles south on the Middle Branch.

A newcomer to real estate, Plank convinced the mayor and City Council to approve $660 million in TIF financing for his self-described “Dubai on the Patapsco.”

The first phase – 1.1 million square feet of office, retail and apartment space extended along Cromwell Street – reached 67% completion last month.

Construction was partly underwritten by $137 million in TIF bonds for new sewers, roads, sidewalks and a straightened-out Cromwell Street that also serves Plank’s existing Sagamore Whiskey venture.

So far, no anchor tenants or leased space have been announced by MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners.

The New York and San Francisco firms were brought in as master developers by Plank and his partner, Goldman Sachs, to replace Weller Development, whose efforts to lure cybersecurity companies, Amazon and others to Port Covington had failed.

Telling local brokers that she’s focused like a laser on leasing, MAG Partners’ CEO Mary Anne Gilmartin has made a promise about what’s to come in the next few months:

“We’re going to lease half a million square feet of commercial space, and we’re going to invite people to come live at Port Covington to fill the half a million square feet of residential that we have to offer.”

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