September 22, 2022

Port Covington Developer Names Office Tenant, Says Rebrand Ahead

The massive Port Covington development in Baltimore has inked its first lease, and developer MAG Partners plans to unveil a rebrand and updated master plan later this year, CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin said Thursday morning.

The H. Chambers Co., a 123-year-old interior design business currently headquartered in the Montgomery Park development in southwest Baltimore, signed a 9K SF lease at the Port Covington building dubbed E-7, Gilmartin said. 

“[It’s] an amazing company that fell in love with the ingenuity, the possibilities, and the actual quality of the buildings we’re in. So, I just want you to know that the leasing has begun, and they are our first signed lease,” Gilmartin said. 

Gilmartin announced the deal during Bisnow’s Baltimore State of the Market event on Thursday at 2455 Banner St. in Port Covington. Speaking to reporters after her remarks, Gilmartin said she expects to announce more significant leases by the fourth quarter of this year.  

Last month, news outlets published articles questioning the pace of leasing at the development and probed whether the lack of deals was a sign the project was struggling. 

The Baltimore Banner, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that CFG Bank told its employees the financial institution planned to relocate its offices from Baltimore County to Port Covington. 

Gilmartin said she could not confirm or deny CFG Bank as a future tenant. No deal is done until the ink is dry on a lease, she said.   

Gilmartin also said her firm, which took over as the project’s master developer in May, plans to unveil a new master plan and a rebranding for the development later this year. 

“We’re doing a complete rebrand. A year from now we won’t be calling it Port Covington. We’re going to unveil a new name for the project at the end of this year,” she said. “We just need traction, right? Because the buildings are there.”   

There are five buildings under construction on the site as part of the $550M first phase of construction. Initial plans from Weller Development, the original master developer, called for 14M SF of retail, office and residential space off Interstate 95 on 235 acres covering the city’s southern peninsula. 

Under Armour, whose founder, Kevin Plank, initially financed the Port Covington redevelopment, is constructing the athletic brand’s new global headquarters next to Port Covington.  

Developer Mark Sapperstein also closed this week on the Locke Insulators building on the peninsula, Gilmartin said. Sapperstein’s firm, 28 Walker Development, has developed some of Baltimore’s most successful retail projects, such as The Shops at Canton Crossing and McHenry Row

However, another major property on the peninsula is heading toward vacancy. The Baltimore Sun isn’t renewing its lease at 300 East Cromwell St. and is in the process of moving operations out of the building, according to Gilmartin. 

The roughly 500K SF industrial building served for decades as the home of the newspaper’s printing operations before The Sun outsourced printing of the paper earlier this year. Since 2018, the property has also served as the newspaper’s main office after its former owner sold The Sun’s Calvert Street offices downtown.  

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September 22, 2022
Baltimore Business Journal

Design firm Chambers Co. signs lease to move offices to Port Covington

Baltimore interior design and architectural firm Chambers Co. on Thursday signed the first office lease at Port Covington and the new owner of the large-scale development says other tenants are on the way.

Chambers will move from Montgomery Park into 9,000 square feet at the new Rye Street Market mixed-use development early next year under a 10-year lease deal, said MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of MAG Partners, which bought into the $5.5 billion project this spring and is the new master developer.

Chambers officials were unavailable for comment on Thursday afternoon. The company is the second-largest interior design firm in the region with nearly $95 million in 2021 billings and 14 interior designers in the Baltimore area as of August, according to BBJ research.

Gilmartin announced the lease deal during a Bisnow real estate forum as the first signed at Port Covington. The news drew a round of applause from the about 200 brokers and developers who had gathered on the fourth floor of 2455 Banner St., an office tower still in the works.

Chambers soon may have company at the emerging development in South Baltimore.

CFG Bank officials said Wednesday they were in final negotiations to sign a lease for 100,000 square feet of office space at Port Covington. Gilmartin declined to comment on that deal but did say JLL brokers hired by MAG and its partner McFarlane Partners were busy with ongoing lease negotiations this month.

The Chambers deal was signed on Thursday morning, Gilmartin said. She added that the 123-year-old firm will begin to build out its office space next month and move in by January.

“The leasing has begun,” Gilmartin said. “This is the first lease.”

Of the push to lasso other new office and commercial tenants for Port Covington’s first group of office buildings that total 1.1 million square feet, Gilmartin told the group: “Our money is green. Bring us a pulse and we’ll make a deal.”

Weller Development exited the massive project in May as New York-based MAG Partners and San Francisco-based McFarlane Partners struck a deal with Under Armour (NYSE: UAA) founder Kevin Plank to take over.

Plank is the lead visionary for Port Covington and he secretly acquired more than 200 acres there nearly a decade ago for the project. He unveiled plans for the development about eight years ago with designs that have since been scaled back and recreated. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group is also an investor.

Today, the master plan for the project states it could hold up to 14 million square feet of mixed-use development on 45 new city blocks.

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