July 21, 2022
Baltimore Sun

Port Covington developers announce $2.5 million in grants to South Baltimore community groups

Developers of the Port Covington waterfront community in South Baltimore have provided $2.5 million in grants and other funds to help revitalize neighborhoods near the site where offices, shops and apartments are under construction.

The distribution over the past year was announced Thursday morning and marks the latest round of investments through a Community Benefits Agreement between the developers and neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mount Winans and Westport.The funds are designed to boost economic development, education and transportation.

The mix of macrogrants, microgrants and capacity-building funds from developers MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners were selected and distributed by the South Baltimore 7 Coalition, made up of neighborhood representatives. The developers, each of which has worked on high-profile urban projects in major U.S. cities, joined Sagamore Ventures’ development efforts in May and will lead the next phase.

Five buildings have neared completion on the 235-acre site along Cromwell Street south of Interstate 95 that is planned for up to 14 million square feet of shops, restaurants, office space and housing, plus 40 acres of parks, across 45 new city blocks. The Baltimore Sun leases its office in the Port Covington development.

Funds for nearby neighborhoods include $815,000 in macrogrants to 12 organizations, $262,000 in microgrants to 25 organizations, and $250,000 to each of the six surrounding communities, totaling $1.5 million.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, said in Thursday’s announcement that the funds will help community groups provide services across South Baltimore.

“Port Covington has been designed to uplift our neighboring communities — and all of Baltimore,” Gilmartin said.

Victor MacFarlane, chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners, said his company has been working to empower underserved communities in its many development projects on the East and West coasts.

A $125,000 grant went to the South Baltimore Community Land Trust and the Cherry Hill Development Corp. to develop 15 new or renovated affordable homes in Cherry Hill and Curtis Bay for residents who earn 50% of median income, said Meleny Thomas, the land trust’s executive director.

“With development on the rise, we want to make sure we have homes that our residents can stay in and increase the homeowners in the community,” Thomas said.

She said she hopes the ongoing partnership with the South Baltimore 7 Coalition will help “thousands of people facing displacement in South Baltimore have an opportunity to stay.”

Community leaders in the coalition are working to enhance quality of life, prevent displacement of residents and attract new ones by improving education, housing, public health, public safety and economic development. The group’s board is made up of leaders from the six communities and members of the Port Covington development team.

The community coalition evaluated macrogrant proposals from community groups for initiatives that will have an impact in at least two neighborhoods. The board looked for ideas that would have potential to grow and attract partnerships.

Microgrants were awarded for smaller community projects that need operating or capital funds to develop or complete specific projects that benefit the community.

A grant of $170,000 went to City of Refuge Baltimore and two nonprofit partners to fund a workforce training and placement program for adults and youth, said Pastor Billy Humphrey, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based City of Refuge. The partners, including Grow Home and Action Baybrook, have worked to create a database of employers and jobs in South Baltimore, train workers and assist with job placement.

“Our goal is to put people back to work,” said Humphrey, adding that the newly launched program has trained more than 111 adults and youth and placed 11 so far in living-wage jobs. The initiative, he said, hopes to “address systemic poverty by getting people back to work in full-time, living-wage jobs.”

Developers already have provided $19 million through the community benefits agreement to city and South Baltimore neighborhoods.

This article has been updated to clarify that while the Port Covington developers provided the funds, the grants were awarded by the South Baltimore 7 Coalition.

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