Council members approved the project after criticism about Sagamore’s commitments to construction of affordable housing and hiring of city residents. Before approval, the company agreed to a $100 million community benefits package and to set aside 20 percent of the new housing units for affordable housing.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake supports the project and is expected to sign the bill.
“We are humbled by the overwhelming support for Port Covington and grateful for the leadership of City Council President Jack Young, Mayor Rawlings-Blake and all of the city officials who have taken part in this legislative process,” said Marc Weller, Sagamore president, in a statement. “None of this would have been possible, though, without the passion and dedication of the community leaders of Baltimore City. The success of Port Covington belongs to them. We are excited to get started creating tens of thousands of jobs, generating long-term positive economic impact for Baltimore City and building this transformational, inclusive redevelopment, together.”
Plank’s request turned a spotlight on fissures exposed on national television last spring after the fatal injury of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in the back of a police van led to protests and looting in the city, prompting dozens of business to suffer losses.
Critics of the proposal said that the city ought to do more to improve services across the city and hold the developer accountable for affordable housing and hiring requirements after Rawlings-Blake, who declined to run for re-election following the Gray fallout, inked three agreements with Sagamore that were largely unenforceable.
Many of those concerns were addressed in the community benefits agreement that Sagamore hammered out over several weeks with representatives from Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, a community group that subsequently issued its support.
Council member Carl Stokes, head of the committee that considered Plank’s request, remained one of the final holdouts but council leaders used a procedural move to bypass his committee. “What we got out of this Port Covington project is unprecedented,” City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young told The Baltimore Sun.
Discussion over the project nearly prompted the city to rework its Inclusionary Zoning law, a measure aimed at requiring developers to include affordable units in their projects but which is widely viewed as a failure. A measure to reform the law went down to a 9-4 vote last month.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz