Baltimore Peninsula begins transformation from construction site to community
Baltimore Peninsula, the once-industrial South Baltimore waterfront that’s being redeveloped, has turned the corner from longtime construction site to emerging community.
The first phase of the 235-acre project south of Interstate 95 has nearly completed streets, landscaped courtyards and a park with a children’s playground underway. It’s made up of two apartment buildings, now 15% and 10% leased, the Roost hotel, an office building that will be half-filled by CFG Bank and another where 125-year-old design firm H. Chambers Co. moved with 30 workers.
“These are no longer stories or part of a great vision of Kevin Plank. They’re no longer lines on paper,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, one of the developers and founder and CEO of New York-based MAG Partners. “They’re no longer part of a massive construction and infrastructure undertaking. This is a real place.”
Gilmartin’s firm, along with San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners, took over the then-partially built project a year ago as lead developer and investor with owners Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs. Plank, the founder of Under Armour who heads the Sagamore investment firm, spearheaded the project nearly a decade ago, buying up land for redevelopment.
Part of the land Plank acquired is being developed in a separate project across East Cromwell Street as a new global headquarters for the Baltimore-based athletic apparel brand. It’s slated to open in the last three months of next year, with 1,500 workers, a flagship retail store and a multipurpose field.
Gilmartin spoke about Baltimore Peninsula during a media tour Wednesday to offer an initial glimpse of new buildings since the first occupants moved in.
A handful of residents first moved in last month to the project’s midrise, upscale apartments. Workers for H. Chambers — the first commercial tenant — have settled into hybrid schedules in an office building with outdoor terraces and a fitness center.
The developers are working on signing street-level retailers, and a sign just went up on one building for a Roost extended stay hotel, expected to open this summer.
Gilmartin predicted that by the time Under Armour’s new corporate campus opens at the end of 2024, the apartments will be close to 90% leased, while the commercial portion will be between 70% to 75% leased.
Despite a difficult housing market, high interest rates and high office vacancies in parts of Baltimore, including downtown, Gilmartin said she has reason to be optimistic.
For one, she believes economic conditions will improve by next year. Demand for housing in Baltimore, she said, remains strong. And she sees opportunity in the office market that Baltimore Peninsula can tap into, especially in a post-pandemic work world where she believes more people will return to offices as part of hybrid schedules and where fewer office buildings will be able to be built.
Bob Hickman, chairman of H. Chambers, which has been in the city for more than a century, said Wednesday that the firm needed space suited to a hybrid remote and work-from-office schedule that would be inviting for employees. The firm looked in Towson, Columbia, Annapolis and Baltimore. Besides offering a central location for employees, Baltimore Peninsula offered a “forward thinking and inclusive” spot, he said.
“We needed a much more collaborative kind of space,” Hickman said. “We needed something that really brings the outdoors in.”
Gilmartin said she expects office users to be attracted from outside the city with offerings such as build-to-suit options and short-term leases, both of which can be hard to find, and more efficient space for those looking to downsize.
In many ways, this project allows the real estate community in Baltimore to redefine what it means to go to work every day,” she said.
Gilmartin also said she hopes to see Baltimore Peninsula connected to, rather than divided from, the rest of the city and said developers are working on a long-term plan with state and federal highway officials to come up with alternative configurations for the nearby ramps onto and off I-95.
Looking to the future, she said residents will continue to want homes in work-play-live environments, including Washington commuters who may work more days at home.
She believes the project will be well-suited to meet demand from Baltimore’s medical and research sectors as well as the film industry, which she said is recession-proof, offers good jobs and requires access to highways and large spaces.
“I think the film industry could have a place here at Baltimore Peninsula, and we’re exploring that,” she said.
And eventually she envisions building a large-scale entertainment or sports venue that would draw large numbers of people, one that might even justify a hotel and conference center.
“We need Baltimore to be on everybody’s radar,” Gilmartin said. And when it comes to businesses and residents looking to relocate, “we need it to be on the short list.”