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.
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.
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.
Design firm Chambers Co. signs lease to move offices to Port Covington
By: Melody Simmons
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.
Port Covington developers announce $2.5 million in grants to South Baltimore community groups
By: Lorraine Mirabella
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.
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.
PODCAST: MaryAnne Gilmartin On Gridlock, Entrepreneurship And Why Baltimore ‘Deserves A Future’
By: Miriam Hall
Bisnow’s audio series, Bisnow Reports, examines every facet of the international commercial real estate industry — from the murky future of retail and office to real estate’s reckoning with diversity to the effects of climate change on the built world, and so much more. You can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music, or scroll down to listen in your browser.
On this episode, MaryAnne Gilmartin, the founder and CEO of MAG Partners, sits down with Bisnow.
Her company is just over 2 years old, but Gilmartin has been a fixture on the New York City real estate scene for decades. Once the president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, her developments include Barclays Center and the New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue.
MAG Partners now has a roughly $1B development pipeline, including three residential projects spanning 1,000 units and a ground-up office development in Manhattan. Last month, the company announced it is taking over the Port Covington megaproject in South Baltimore, along with San Francisco’s MacFarlane Partners. The firms are joining the plan to build a mini-city launched by Sagamore Ventures, the development firm founded by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.
“There’s no way to do anything big and bold without expecting some friction,” she says on the podcast. “It’s just getting harder and harder. There’s really more divisiveness in the country and city than I’ve ever seen … Maybe when gridlock occurs and nothing’s happening and the city is falling apart and people still want to be here and they love our city, then something will give, because something has to give.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH NEW PORT COVINGTON DEVELOPER MARYANNE GILMARTIN OF MAG PARTNERS
By: Kevin Lynch
Earlier this month, The Port Covington Development Team announced MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners will take over as the development partners of the Port Covington Development. Weller Development will exit the project at the completion of the 1.1 million sq. ft. Chapter 1B phase in Fall 2023.
The Port Covington Development Team is owned by Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners will lead the development, as well as invest in the project.
SouthBMore.com spoke with MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, to learn more about what attracted her to the project and her vision for Port Covington.
Gilmartin told SouthBMore.com she met Plank in February 2021 through friend Jody Clark, who is the chief of real estate for Sagamore Ventures, and then started to look at the Port Covington project.
“My team started to look at it, made some recommendations, and somewhere along the way I fell in love with it,” she said. “There is no greater spokesperson for Baltimore I’ve come across than Kevin Plank.”
“I think I can leverage Kevin to be an essential part of the project,” said Gilmartin. “The quid pro quo for me was that Kevin is involved.”
Gilmartin compared Plank’s dedication to Baltimore to the way Dan Gilbert has “lifted up” Detroit. Gilbert is the co-founder of Quicken Loans, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and founder of Rock Ventures, which is co-owner of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.
After her interest grew in the Port Covington Development, Gilmartin called her friend Victor MacFarlane of MacFarlane Partners.
“He only works on things with purpose and only works in cities,” she said, noting how she told MacFarlane, “If I do it, I want to do it with someone like you.”
The two formed a partnership and then not only agreed to join the project, they invested in it as well.
Gilmartin said MacFarlane is “probably one of the largest Black developers in the country.”
Gilmartin started MAG Partners in 2020. She has worked on projects such as The New York Times building in Manhattan, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the 14-building Pacific Park Brooklyn mixed-use project. This is Gilmartin’s first project outside of the New York City metro area.
She said it’s “incredible what Weller Development has put in place.”
“We view Chapter 1B as proof of concept,” said Gilmartin. “Weller will finish up the construction and we will take over from there.”
She said she has been working closely with the leasing team that includes JLL, but noted “we need results.”
Gilmartin said there are “infinite possibilities” for Port Covington. She noted uses such as residential, entertainment, commercial, education, and hospitals, and said she sees a lot of possibilities for life sciences.
“When I think about Johns Hopkins and the unbelievable institutions in Baltimore, the compelling campaign is life sciences. Everyone wants it, there isn’t enough of it, and there is so much money backing it,” she said.
“We shouldn’t be cannibalizing the CBD [Central Business District] and Inner Harbor, this project needs to be bigger than just moving companies around,” she added.
When asked about the idea of a new arena or soccer stadium for Port Covington, Gilmartin said, “I’m absolutely open to the opportunity and know what sports can do for a community.”
Gilmartin worked on the Barclays Center project that brought the Nets to Brooklyn.
She specifically noted that soccer comes up as “high possibility.” She added “very few other places amass the type of land needed for soccer” and that a team would “attract people from all parts of the city.”
When asked about the business climate in Baltimore and Maryland, which never rank high as the best places to do business, she noted her vast experience working in the New York market. “New York is downright hostile, we are challenged every day,” said Gilmartin.
She also said, however, “I have this love affair with New York. People want to be in New York for a reason – for the culture, the food, the people, the opportunity, and the spirit. If a place has a magic fairy dust, it counterbalances what’s not great.”
“I spend a lot of time in Brooklyn. Baltimore has the kind of grit and possibility Brooklyn has. I love the underdog status, ” said Gilmartin.
She said it wasn’t easy to lure companies to Brooklyn but said they were able to create a “sense of place” which led to the momentum Brooklyn is seeing now.
MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners will take over Weller Development’s office at City Garage in Port Covington which includes a “beautiful” leasing space, according to Weller Development.
#45, MaryAnne Gilmartin, Founder and CEO at MAG Partners
By: Larry Getlen
Last year’s rank: 50
Two years into the company’s existence, MAG Partners spent 2021 constructing a massive development empire, a feat that, to founder MaryAnne Gilmartin, shows the company’s strength and resilience.
“We were able to put together a billion-dollar development pipeline, and secure those projects in a way where we have site control,” Gilmartin said. “We will have footings in three of the residential buildings in time for the expiration of [development incentive 421a], and we have capital partners committed to everything included in that pipeline. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment during one of the most challenging times in the history of New York City real estate.”
Two of the already capitalized projects in the pipeline include 335 Eighth Avenue, a 200-unit redevelopment to create an apartment building designed by Cookfox with 30 percent reserved for low- and middle-income residents, plus ground-floor commercial space; and 300 East 50th Street, a 194-unit multifamily building also with 30 percent affordable and with ground-floor retail, designed by BKSK.
On the commercial side, MAG has raised the equity for a bespoke 200,000-square-foot office in Hudson Square at 122 Varick Street.
“It will be a building of the future, a building that recognizes what’s important for corporate America as we all return to work,” Gilmartin said. “We’re going to capture all the elements of design and operating principles that we learned through the pandemic are important: lots of collaborative spaces, outdoor space, and a beautiful building that’s healthy inside and out.”
In a confirmation of the company’s strength, MAG has doubled its employee roster in recent months, now boasting 10 employees that make the company 50 percent female.
Looking forward, in May MAG made a major announcement regarding a project called Port Covington which is part of Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs’s Port Covington development in Baltimore.
“We will be stepping into a very large master-planned development of 250 acres outside of New York with a blue chip, high-quality sponsor, and a partnership with another developer that together will make us among the largest and most prolific minority development partnerships in the country,” Gilmartin said. “It’s about 14 million square feet of development in partnership with a local municipality, in a city that needs the kind of placemaking we bring.”
Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs Asset Management Announce Expansion of the Port Covington Development Team
Unique partnership between leading national woman-owned and Black-owned development firms, MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners, will bring new investment to the Port Covington development and focus on the development of future phases
Weller Development Company will continue driving construction of the first phase, which is already delivering promised benefits to MBE/WBE businesses, the SB6 communities and the City of Baltimore
Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group within Goldman Sachs Asset Management (Goldman Sachs) today announced an addition to the development and investment team for Port Covington that brings together two of the leading woman-owned and Black-owned development firms in the country, MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners. The addition of the MAG and MacFarlane team brings national experience that will focus on leasing, marketing and placemaking campaigns. Weller Development Company (WDC) will continue to focus on the construction of Chapter 1B, the 1.1 million- square-foot phase currently underway.
The MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners team will lead the future development efforts outside of Chapter 1B and continue with the vision and transformation of the 177-acre South Baltimore project, with an approved master plan consisting of up to 14 million square feet of mixed-use development and 40 acres of open space across 45 new city blocks. The new development teams are direct investors leading all leasing, as well as future development and construction.
“With a dynamic and unsurpassed waterfront location, including direct access to I95 and unparalleled corporate branding opportunities, Port Covington is perfectly positioned for brands looking for more than a headquarters location, and are instead focused on community and impact. As the first phase of Port Covington springs from the ground, we are thrilled to grow our development team with the national, proven experience and scale of MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners who will support the ambition and vision we have for the project. Getting the project to this point has been nothing short of herculean by Weller Development Company and the entire Port Covington Development Team,” said Kevin Plank, Principal and CEO of Sagamore Ventures. “With the support of Goldman Sachs, a catalytic anchor in Under Armour, and additional, innovative development partners in place, Port Covington is poised to attract top-tier commercial tenants and fulfill its potential for Baltimore and continue creating a new model for equitable and impactful urban development.”
“Port Covington is a transformational project that will help define and advance our renaissance by generating thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for the City and our residents for generations to come,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “I am encouraged by the latest, premier additions to the development and investment teams and look forward to working with them to ensure that this project continues to benefit the South Baltimore community, especially its residents, equitably and inclusively. I am grateful to Sagamore for their demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion that they have achieved to date.”
MAG Partners and MacFarlane bring national experience and acknowledge the growth opportunities in Baltimore, having delivered some of the most complex mixed-use developments across the country, with a shared mission of bringing architecturally significant, equitable and sustainable development to America’s urban centers. Led by MaryAnne Gilmartin who has decades of experience leading complicated organizations to deliver impactful projects, the MAG Partners team has successfully designed, built, leased, and operated over seven million square feet of office, residential and mixed-use projects. MacFarlane Partners is led by Victor MacFarlane, a pioneer in urban development with a 40-year track record of investments that promote smart growth, urban revitalization, and sustainability in urban and high-density suburban submarkets. Both developers have also created and implemented innovative plans around community engagement, workforce development and local hiring, and affordable housing, and will bring that experience to Port Covington.
“Community and purpose are at the core of everything we do. Coupled with the vision and stewardship of Kevin and his team at Sagamore Ventures and Weller Development Company, we are excited to join the great work already underway which is uniquely focused on impact,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, Founder and CEO of MAG Partners. “We are grateful to have had the opportunity to ground our team in the long-term vision for Port Covington and are looking forward to implementing new strategies to bring innovators to Baltimore City and ensure the neighborhood is built for all its constituents – particularly local residents.”
“Our business is focused on high-impact investments in key gateway cities and Port Covington perfectly aligns with our vision of smart, urban growth,” said Victor MacFarlane, Chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners. “Port Covington is a model of sustainability, inclusivity and forward-thinking development that is vital to the lasting success of our urban communities nationally. We are excited to partner with MAG Partners and Sagamore Ventures to advance the next chapter of Port Covington’s story.”
“Goldman Sachs invested in Port Covington because we have great confidence in the vision, and the opportunity to create something that delivers true community benefits for the city of Baltimore. As such, the Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs teams proactively sought the support of nationally-experienced development partners that are uniquely qualified to enhance our mission,” said Michael Lohr, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “The growing development team reflects both our ambition for Port Covington and commitment to delivering a world-class project that will drive renewed community investment and revitalize South Baltimore’s waterfront. Building on the achievements of the talented team at WDC, we are poised to deliver on this commitment.”
“We are so thankful to Goldman Sachs and Sagamore Ventures for their commitment to Baltimore; together, we exceeded expectations and delivered on the promises and commitments made to the community and the City. As the project evolves, we are excited to pass the reins to MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners to develop future phases,” said Marc Weller, Founding Partner, Weller Development Company. “Building on the momentum of the project and the ongoing efforts with the City’s community partners will be an important priority for the Weller Development Company construction team.”
Port Covington is expected to deliver robust community benefits, including $19 million already funded to support Baltimore City and South Baltimore communities. To date, Port Covington has committed more than $110 million in contracts to MBE/WBE firms, exceeding its initial goals with 35 percent participation for MBEs and 12 percent for WBEs, and 500 Youthworks positions have been funded for Baltimore City youth.
Mike Middleton, Chair of the South Baltimore Seven (SB7) Coalition said, “From the onset, the community partnered with the Port Covington Development Team to ensure that the project will have a long-lasting, positive impact on South Baltimore and the City as whole. The collaboration between the community and Sagamore Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Weller Development has been unprecedented. They have lived up to their promises and delivered as they said they would. The progress we are seeing and this latest milestone gets us one step closer to reaching our goals and realizing a brighter future for our communities.”
Last March, Port Covington celebrated the start of vertical construction and more than 1.1 million square feet of development is underway. This phase includes 586,000 square feet of residential, 440,000 square feet of office,116,000 square feet of retail, over 1,000 parking spaces, and ten acres of parks and public space.
About Port Covington
Port Covington is a 235-acre redevelopment project located on Baltimore City’s prime waterfront, featuring investments from Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group within Goldman Sachs Asset Management. As one of the largest urban revitalization efforts in the United States, the neighborhood of Port Covington will have a fundamental and far-reaching impact on Baltimore’s future. At completion, this transformative project will include: up to 14 million square feet of new, mixed-use development; 2.5 miles of restored waterfront; and 40 acres of parks and green space. The Port Covington redevelopment is expected to generate fresh opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship for Baltimore City residents and its local workforce.
For more information on Port Covington, visit www.pc.city.
May 10, 2022
Two high-profile developers join Port Covington team to take over next phase of development
By: Lorraine Mirabella
Two developers of high-profile urban projects in major U.S. cities have joined Sagamore Ventures’ effort to create a mini-city in South Baltimore’s Port Covington and will lead the next phase of development.
As five buildings near completion in the waterfront neighborhood south of Interstate 95, Sagamore and investment partner Goldman Sachs on Tuesday announced new partner firms, both of which invested undisclosed amounts in the project.
MAG Partners, a New York-based woman-owned firm, and MacFarlane Partners, a San Francisco-based Black-owned development and institutional investment firm, will leverage decades each of national experience in taking the reins from Weller Development Co. for leasing, marketing and “placemaking” campaigns for the current $500 million, 1.1 million-square-foot phase, Sagamore said.
MAG and MacFarlane will lead all future development outside that initial phase. The vision for the massive project, which spans 235 acres along Cromwell Street, includes up to 14 million square feet of shops, restaurants, office space and housing, plus 40 acres of parks, across 45 new city blocks.
Weller, which has led development thus far, will complete the construction of the current buildings, which include the centerpiece Rye Street Market with a food market, restaurants, retail, office space and a rentable events venue, as well as four additional buildings for apartments, offices, parking and retail.
Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, whose private investment firm, Sagamore Ventures, began carving out and acquiring parcels for Port Covington in 2014, touted the new development team members’ proven national experience and scale.
“Getting the project to this point has been nothing short of herculean by Weller Development Company and the entire Port Covington Development Team,” Plank said in the announcement. Now, “Port Covington is poised to attract top-tier commercial tenants and fulfill its potential for Baltimore and continue creating a new model for equitable and impactful urban development.”
No leases have been signed yet for any of the first phase buildings but tenant negotiations are underway, officials said.
Sagamore and Goldman sought out nationally-experienced developers to direct future phases, said Michael Lohr, managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which includes the investment bank’s urban investment group.
“The growing development team reflects both our ambition for Port Covington and commitment to delivering a world-class project that will drive renewed community investment and revitalize South Baltimore’s waterfront,” Lohr said in Tuesday’s announcement.
The heads of both MAG and MacFarlane, neither of whom has worked in Baltimore before, said in an interview that they were attracted to the project through personal ties and because of a belief in the untapped potential of U.S. cities and Baltimore in particular.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, and Victor MacFarlane, chairman and CEO of MacFarlane Partners, said they each found a niche pursuing against-all-odds types of development work.
The developers acknowledged Baltimore’s challenges but said they were impressed with accessibility along I-95, a strong labor pool, relative affordability for an East Coast city and expansive undeveloped waterfront land, all in an urban setting. That’s a recipe to draw companies, small businesses, residents and visitors, they said.
Key benefits, they said, include Under Armour’s commitment to build a five-story global headquarters for 1,700 employees on 50 acres it owns across Cromwell Street in Port Covington, along with a track and field facility and a flagship retail store. Port Covington also has buy-in from the city and the community after it funded a community benefits agreement that has funneled $19 million to South Baltimore neighborhoods.
“When we thought about all these ingredients, we thought there’s real possibilities here,” Gilmartin said. “We believe in cities as a company. … We started MAG partners so we that could demonstrate that you could build beautiful buildings and create value not just for partners and investors but for the communities in which we build.”
The Port Covington project, valued at an estimated $5.5 billion, is backed by $660 million in tax increment financing, which means property taxes generated by the project will repay city bonds sold to pay for its infrastructure. It is Baltimore’s largest such deal in history.
MacFarlane, who first went into business as an institutional investment manager in 1987, said his company looks for high-impact investments in key gateway cities. He is considered a pioneer in urban development for investments in inner-city Los Angeles after the 1992 riots and has led urban revitalization projects both in urban and high-density suburban submarkets.
“Port Covington perfectly aligns with our vision of smart, urban growth,” said MacFarlane, calling it a “model of sustainability, inclusivity and forward-thinking development that is vital to the lasting success of our urban communities nationally.”
His firm was a development partner in the mixed-use Time Warner Center along Central Park in New York. MacFarlane is partnering with another developer on a $2 billion, twin-tower luxury hotel project in downtown Los Angeles. Over the past decade, he said, he has focused on large urban projects “that can make an impact.”
“I’ve never really had an opportunity to do much in Baltimore, and the attributes that MaryAnne discussed about this project are very compelling,” he said during an interview. “We think with Port Covington we can place-make, which will not just cannibalize, as a lot of these projects are doing to themselves, but create an expansion of the employment base in Baltimore and make it more attractive overall.”
Gilmartin started her career as an economic developer under former New York Mayor Ed Koch and worked as an executive for Forest City Ratner Cos. before founding her own firm in 2020. She said she was brought into the Port Covington project by Jody Clark, Sagamore’s chief real estate officer, and first met with Plank just over a year ago at his Sagamore Farm in Baltimore County, site of Plank’s former thoroughbred racing operation.
While at Forest City, Gilmartin spearheaded the development of some high-profile New York City projects, including theBarclays Centerin Brooklyn. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, Gilmartin worked on the New York Times building in Times Square.
“We built a very safe, beautiful building we designed before 9/11,” she said. “We took some precautionary steps but we did not build a fortress, and it was really a vote on the future of New York City.”
Gilmartin said her first step after signing on to Port Covington was to reach out to MacFarlane, who she met years ago while doing work in San Francisco for Forest City.
The developers say they intend to capitalize on Plank’s talent for brand building with Under Armour and promise he will be a “strong voice” in selling the Baltimore story and re-branding the project.
“It was super important to us that we be able to call on Kevin,” Gilmartin said. “He is such a believer in Baltimore. He is very much going to be an active part of this endeavor.”
Port Covington is a “canvas,” she said, and the construction so far “really allows us now to start talking about Port Covington as a place to be, a place to go, a place to have fun, a place to raise a family, a place to grow your business. Yes the city has challenges … but it’s a very affordable alternative to some expensive bigger cities.”
Future development will be market driven, with design of office and residential buildings influenced by new ways of working that emerged during the pandemic, the developers said. They see Baltimore’s multi-family, for-rent market as healthy, with demand for both market-rate and affordable housing. Residential leasing is expected to start by the end of this year when model apartments will be available.
And commercial leasing, after a disruption during the pandemic, is getting back on track, with about 100,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of retail under negotiation and buildings expected to be ready for occupancy later this year and into early 2023. Developers said they expect the project to appeal to a diverse sector of businesses and will cast a wide net for tenants.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said in the announcement that he was encouraged by news of the latest partners. Port Covington is expected to be transformational, he said, generating “thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for the city and our residents for generations to come.”
Marc Weller, founding partner of Weller Development, said the work to date on the site has “exceeded expectations.”
“As the project evolves,” Weller said in Tuesday’s announcement, “we are excited to pass the reins to MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners to develop future phases.”
N.Y. developer MAG Partners co-leads team pitching for Diamond District project
By: Jonathan Spiers
An East Coast developer and a West Coast peer are teaming up in a bid to score Richmond’s Diamond District project.
New York-based MAG Partners and Seattle-based MacFarlane Partners are driving one of the six teams that remain in contention for the mixed-use redevelopment of city-owned land that would include a replacement of The Diamond baseball stadium.
MAG is led by MaryAnne Gilmartin, whose development credits include Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena and surrounding Pacific Park Brooklyn mixed-use development. Other projects include the New York Times headquarters building and the 76-story New York by Gehry skyscraper.
Gilmartin, who founded MAG in 2020, helped drive those efforts during her years as an executive with Forest City Ratner Cos., the last five as its CEO. (Forest City worked on Barclays with David Carlock of Machete Group, a venue advisory firm that’s leading a separate Diamond District contender team).
MacFarlane Partners – not to be confused with the similarly named Richmond firm led by local developer Charles Macfarlane – is a 35-year-old company whose development work includes a 54-story hotel and condo high-rise at L.A. Live, an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.
Led by Victor MacFarlane, the company is one of the largest black-owned development firms in the country, according to Gilmartin, who said they’ve collaborated on other projects.
Also on the team is Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, a D.C.-based development firm that was one of the 15 respondents to the Diamond District’s initial request-for-interest solicitation. Gilmartin said Jair Lynch joined their team in recent weeks after its RFI response didn’t make the latest cut. The company has a focus in multifamily residential development.
Another recent addition is MSquared, a real estate development and investment firm led by Alicia Glen, a former New York City deputy mayor under the Bill de Blasio administration.
Rounding out the team are architecture firms AtelierTek and Woods Bagot; engineering firm Kimley-Horn, which has an office in Richmond; sports venue developer CAA Icon, whose stadium-related work includes Chicago’s 1060 Project and Guaranteed Rate Field; placemaking and workforce firm C Space; and structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti.
With its team, Gilmartin said in an interview this week, “I would submit that we have to have among the most diverse group of talent in the mix for this RFP response, just because I know how hard it is to put a team like this together.
“We really like what the government’s done by way of organizing this RFP. It’s ambitious, it’s got scale, and as a result, we put together a team that goes far beyond just the resumes and credentials of MAG Partners,” she said.
Gilmartin said her firm had identified Richmond as an emerging market it wanted to do business in when the Diamond District RFI showed up on its radar, leading to discussions with MacFarlane and Jair Lynch. She said Richmond’s culture, food scene and evolving demographics make it ripe to become one of the country’s next hot spots.
“We have a lot still to learn, but what we do know about Richmond is super-exciting to us. We think it’s a city to watch, for sure,” she said.
“As my team particularly was part of the renaissance of Brooklyn – we spent a lot of time helping to create a place in Brooklyn at a time when it really didn’t have the halo effect that it has today – we learned a lot along the way, and what we see in Richmond really lines up with what we are doing in our careers.”
While different in market and scale, Gilmartin said the 67-acre Diamond District project is similar to the 8-acre Pacific Park Brooklyn development that’s anchored by Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and WNBA’s New York Liberty.
“It really was the cornerstone to kick off the overall large-scale development, because it’s got public purpose and delivers a ton for the community. We see the Richmond RFP in a very similar way,” she said.
“It was a controversial project in its inception. One of the reasons why I think it’s been widely accepted by people in Brooklyn is that it is a very good neighbor, in terms of the way it’s been planned, the way it was constructed, the way that it operates. All of that was due to the work we put in for years and years.”
Gilmartin said her team would take a similar approach to the Diamond District, bringing with it lessons they learned from over a decade working on Barclays and Pacific Park Brooklyn.
“The only way to really know how to do it is to have done it,” she said. “All of that experience will be brought to bear in Richmond. The public trust that underlies that commitment needs to be honored, and that’s something that I think we are uniquely capable of doing.”
MAG’s team is one of six that the city is considering for the next stage in the process: an invitation for development proposals. After getting picked among the initial 15 RFI respondents, the teams were asked to provide additional information about themselves and how they would approach the project. The deadline for those details is this Monday, April 25.
An evaluation panel would then select a shortlist of finalists, who would be invited to submit proposals by early June. A final selection is targeted later that month.
In addition to a new, 10,000-capacity stadium to replace the 37-year-old Diamond, which has been deemed unfeasible for renovation, the Diamond District project calls for a mix of development including office, residential, retail and a hotel, as well as upgrades to infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads. The residential component would consist of rental and for-sale homes that would include some units targeted to lower-income households.
While local efforts to position the site for redevelopment have ebbed and flowed for over a decade, Gilmartin said the project’s history gives her team confidence that this latest attempt will be seen through – as does Major League Baseball’s deadline for the Richmond Flying Squirrels to find a facility that meets new pro baseball standards by the start of the 2025 season.
“I have a joke that sometimes things have to die three times before they live,” Gilmartin said. “Part of what I like about this is the process has been super-thoughtful, and because it has certain built-in timelines, there’s a certain amount of commitment around this RFP, because of the needs of the Squirrels and some of the other requirements that make us pretty sure something’s going to happen here.”
She added, “It feels right, it feels ready, and it feels highly credentialed on the part of the government.”
Declining to discuss her team’s vision for the project in detail, Gilmartin said they’ve shared more with the city than just their qualifications, and are open to potentially expanding or modifying the team’s makeup as needed for the project. City administrators have said the final selection for the project could be one or more developers or teams for all of parts of the development.
“While I can’t talk about the details, I can tell you that this submission that we’re doing is so much more than introductory,” Gilmartin said. “The level of work and the level of thinking that’s being asked of us is significant, and in my mind, while it’s a ton of work, it also speaks to the legitimacy of the planning organizations, the seriousness of the government to actually do something.”
Regarding arguments over whether the project should be awarded to primarily local or out-of-town teams, Gilmartin added, “We should be always thinking local, but there’s a certain amount of ideas and excitement that can come from opening the team up from beyond just the borders of Richmond and Virginia. It should be inclusive, and it should also have a local lineup.
“If our lineup is not local enough, because we need to bring in more local expertise, we’re completely open to that, and we’ve made that very clear,” she said. “But I also think, having run a company that had 26 offices around the country, we can all learn from each other.
“Obviously Richmond is not Brooklyn,” Gilmartin added, “but at the same time, we think we can contribute in a way that is highly beneficial to the process, and the ideas are probably going to be new. There has been a local effort on this district for quite some time now, and I think that there’s a desire for some new ideas and new thinking. But that doesn’t have to come at the expense of local expertise.”
The other five teams that remain in contention are:
• Diamond District Gateway Partners, consisting of local real estate investment firm Capital Square, D.C.-based developers Dantes Partners and Hoffman & Associates, Maryland-based real estate firm The Velocity Cos., local architecture firm Baskervill and Missouri-based architecture firm Pendulum.
• Richmond Community Development Partners, led by Houston-based Machete Group and consisting of developers JMA Ventures and Sterling Project Development, construction firm Gilbane, hotel management and advisory firm Retro Hospitality, architecture firm Hanbury, engineering firm VHB and planning nonprofit Storefront for Community Design.
• RVA Diamond Partners, team members unknown.
• Vision300 Partners LLC, includes developers Freehold Communities, Greenstone Properties, KDC and Spy Rock Real Estate Group; local building firm Hourigan; housing nonprofit Better Housing Coalition, construction firm Canterbury Enterprises, Shamin Hotels, YMCA of Greater Richmond, Brookfield Asset Management, and Richmond-based Sports United Ltd.
• Weller Development Co. and LMXD, consisting of Weller, a Baltimore-based developer, and LMXD, affiliated with New York-based L+M Development Partners.
Andrew Staniforth and MaryAnne Gilmartin Plotting a Modular Empire with Assembly OSM
By: Cathy Cunningham
Andrew Staniforth and MaryAnne Gilmartin first saw the potential for modular construction in Brooklyn years ago. Now, Staniforth, as CEO of Assembly OSM, is taking it to new heights coast to coast.
Assembly (n): A group gathered together in one place for a common purpose.
If there’s one thing the past two years have taught us, it’s that just because things were done in a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t necessarily mean the old way was the right way.
The commercial real estate industry has been a sometimes reluctant beneficiary of change and innovation. But, one firm is pushing the boundaries when it comes to an age-old process that was previously, quite literally, set in stone.
Modular construction startup Assembly OSM was founded by Chris Sharples and Bill Sharples, two of the founders of SHoP Architects, in 2019. While the Sharples brothers continue to oversee the company’s strategic direction, Andrew Staniforth took the reins as CEO late last year.
Its mission is clear: Assembly aims to turn the preconceived notion of modular construction on its head through the delivery of architecturally beautiful, high-rise buildings that are greener, cheaper and faster to construct.
The new modular
Think of modular construction and what comes to mind may be stock Lego pieces, put together in an impersonal manner. Right?
Wrong. Just ask MaryAnne Gilmartin, who serves as an adviser to Assembly.
“We don’t want to make people think about prisons and dormitories when we think modular,” Gilmartin, the founder and CEO of MAG Partners, said. “We want to go back to [architect, inventor and futurist] Buckminster Fuller, and recognize that when you have controlled environments, you can deliver unbelievable beauty.
Utilizing the technical know-how of former engineers from the automotive and aeronautics industries, Assembly utilizes cutting-edge technology in every step of its building delivery process, from digital twin manufacturing models — or, real-time virtual representations of the physical construction process — through to eventual on-site installation
Sustainability is a crucial part of its business plan. On the construction front, its buildings have 30 to 40 percent less embodied carbon and a reduction of 60 to 70 percent of on-site emissions. Assembly has also designed its properties to be upgradable and disassembled as markets change, or at the end of their useful life. Further, drawing from a preapproved supply chain allows developers to track the sustainability of each product.
“We feel that attacking this problem from all angles is the only way we will be successful at moving the industry forward,” Staniforth said.
In addition to its eco-friendly approach, Gilmartin said the key void Assembly is filling today centers around innovation.
“It’s a connect-the-dots void,” she said. “As developers, we accept the fact that the way we do things is inherently inefficient, and there has to be a better way. What Assembly is doing is pushing the bounds of that conversation to a place of saying, ‘We can do it better, we can deliver it cheaper, and we can make it beautiful.’ I don’t think that trifecta has been demystified by the development and building community, and I actually don’t think there are many competitors trying to solve that same problem.”
As this article was going to press, Staniforth was focused on getting Assembly’s first deal locked down, a 130,000-square-foot multifamily building in Manhattan. Details on the property are still under wraps but — to give eager eyes a taste of what automated architecture can look like — the company put a prototype of a completed one-bedroom unit on display in Harrison, N.J., in late October 2021.
“We’re at a point where what Bill and Chris have built over the last three years at Assembly is now ready to release into the world,” Staniforth said. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve had people come out to our facility in Harrison and see our first units being built. MaryAnne was one of them, and I jokingly said we need one of those roller-coaster flashes that go off when you walk into the unit because everyone’s reaction is, ‘This is amazing,’ because the preconceived notions of modular and prefab just aren’t applicable to that first unit — at all.”
Gilmartin described the apartment as “stunningly beautiful.” She added: “What hit me was the absolute upgrade in every way to the original thought of a ‘modular unit.’ It has evolved significantly in its application to high-end, luxury condominiums, and you can now produce that luxury look and feel at a price point that allows renters at all price points to experience a level of luxury. That’s very, very difficult to achieve presently in construction.”
Assembly buildings are delivered in about half the time and allow developers to reduce both interest and carrying costs, and hold less contingencies, all of which result in an overall less expensive building. Thanks to the cutting-edge technology utilized in their prefabrication, Assembly buildings are also higher quality and more sustainable, making it a win-win for both the developer and the end user.
Technology is the backbone of Assembly, and the company has added engineers from Boeing, SpaceX and Tesla to its team, including Boeing’s former chief technology officer, John Tracy.
Those engineers know how the advanced manufacturing industry has operated most efficiently within the aeronautics and automotive industries, and have helped Assembly implement two fundamental concepts applicable to real estate construction: a single source of product information (or digital twin) and a widely distributed supply chain, where subcomponents — for example bathrooms and kitchens — are manufactured by different suppliers across the country and are ready to roll without delays when it comes time to deliver the building.
Bringing all of these capabilities together, Assembly has also built its own software and combined it with products like Catia, used for computer-aided engineering, and 3D technology so that custom-made buildings can be digitally modeled and manufactured like cars and airplanes have been for decades.
As a developer, “My end of the business is never really going to be on the forefront of innovation,” Gilmartin said. “I think that in some ways this discussion around modular and process innovation and delivering quality in a more efficient way is like a war cry for intelligence in real estate.”
And those who understand the true benefits of that intelligence are the ones who’ve been watching the construction space for a very long time, Gilmartin said.
It started deep in the Forest
Modular construction isn’t a new concept to Gilmartin or Staniforth. In fact, the construction of Brooklyn’s Pacific Park, which included Barclays Center as well as the erection of a high-rise modular tower, was a bonding moment for the two at Forest City when the young Staniforth joined the firm as an intern in 2011, his first job out of the University of Pennsylvania.
On Staniforth’s very first day, Gilmartin handed him a set of plans for Tower B2, now known as 461 Dean Street, the first modular tower next to the arena, and said, “We’re trying to figure this out. Can you take a look at it?” He’d never received a set of plans, let alone looked at anything like it.
“I think that the baptism by fire that we had at Forest City really allowed me to be involved in things that most 20 year olds wouldn’t have exposure to,” he said.
Staniforth wasn’t the only one thrown into the deep end when it came to the project, though.
“None of us had ever built an arena before,” Gilmartin said. “It was about getting the best and the brightest people around the table, including the architects, and figuring out how to do this in a way that was different and lasting. Andrew was a big part of that. The arena process confirmed that he’s a superstar, and then he just needed additional time and exposure.”
Gilmartin described herself as an “episodic mentor” in Staniforth’s career since then, available for counsel when big moments or career opportunities have come his way. Or, from Staniforth’s perspective, “at every pivotal moment.”
A pull toward technology and innovation during his time at Forest City presaged his next move — to urban infrastructure, planning and innovation firm Sidewalk Labs (a subsidiary of Google) — and, after Gilmartin created L&L Mag in 2017, she brought Staniforth over there, where he began working on Terminal Warehouse, the firm’s reimagined former shipping warehouse in West Chelsea. (It should be noted that while Staniforth was working on that project, Commercial Observer named him to its Top Young Professionals in commercial real estate list.)
Staniforth credited Gilmartin with steering him to the places that held learning opportunities. “Sidewalk was a big shift,” he said. “But MaryAnne has always been this force of, ‘Find things that challenge you professionally, and find where you can add value to the industry, to the company, to the ecosystem,’ and for the past 10 years, that’s the way I’ve approached everything.”
Looking back in the context of what Staniforth is now doing at Assembly, Gilmartin described their Forest City modular accomplishments as “important, but not enough. We demonstrated that a building could stand up if 60-plus percent of it was built in a factory — and that’s not an insignificant contribution. What’s now been taken to a much more sophisticated level, is that you can build modules and not sacrifice aesthetics and architecture.
It’s a new dawn
Staniforth’s new role requires many problem-solving skills in an industry resistant to change.
“Understanding the benefits that stem from changing the way that we build buildings — for more affordable housing, and all of the benefits of having a much broader, inclusive workforce who participate in construction — and then being able to keep those benefits at the forefront as you do something that changes the way that stuff has happened for generations is a very clarifying process in terms of what I have to focus on,” he said.
As CEO, his first task was setting a very clear and concrete internal mission at the company. “Once you establish that North Star of values, everything centers around that,” he said.
One of his core leadership philosophies is being transparent with both his team and the broader real estate community to drive home the things for which Assembly stands. Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce at every stage of the construction process is one prime example.
“Transparency empowers people to make decisions, and I’m transparent about needing to have a more inclusive workforce and pull different pockets of populations into the construction field, because they’ve been traditionally cut out,” he said. “It’s really important to codify that internally, and then everyone, as they analyze the decisions in their own day, consent around that, and my leadership team doesn’t have to be involved in those decisions. Everyone knows what we’re optimizing for. And that’s part of what I’ve been doing over the past six weeks — getting those concepts just on the table and talking about them very openly.”
One of the big exercises as Assembly grows the team is hiring people that match its values and its mission, and can help it continue to achieve those goals.
Time is money
Developers may take some convincing along the way, but Gilmartin is confident the argument for modular is ready to be made.
“It’s a case of trust and verify in doing these early projects and taking a group of doubting Thomases and converting them,” she said. “You don’t have to be on the higher plane in the world of developers, you can actually be a bit of a lunkhead — and I say that affectionately. As developers we want to get the job done, and make money.”
The benefits should be easy enough for the lunkheads to grasp: Assembly’s building delivery methodology eliminates the potential for human error, shortens project timelines and removes the guesswork from construction costs, thanks to the prefabricated advance pipeline of materials involved.
“We all know that there’s a dire need for housing, and the market is there for it. But as a developer, you don’t know what it’s going to cost,” Gilmartin said. “The innovation that Andrew is working on is going to allow us to be much more certain about cost and time. Time is money and there are so many things that can go wrong when there’s a bigger human factor involved. And I think that this idea that Andrew is going to use the automotive industry and the aeronautics industry to do a better job of delivering for the built environment is something that’s just next level, and beyond anything we were thinking about when we built B2 as a modular building.”
What’s also key — perhaps especially in New York, where buildings’ outward appearances’ are judged like dogs at Crufts — is that design aesthetics won’t be sacrificed along the way.
“The ethos of our company comes from ShoP. And design is so important,” Staniforth said. “At the end of the day, people want to live in places that are beautiful and safe and healthy. When you put that at the forefront of how you approach a manufactured product, you get around some of the preconceived challenges of modular and prefabricated work.”
Breaking down those walls — no pun intended — the company is already in conversations with several of the industry’s starchitects.
“COOKFOX or Norman Foster will be able to design an Assembly building,” Staniforth said, adding that beauty will be one thing that differentiates his firm from others in the modular space. “You don’t have to pick out a building from an assembly line. On the back end, we’ll make it super efficient to execute. But on the front end, it’s going to look beautiful and custom-made with your architect’s stamp on it.”
Staniforth expects Assembly to complete three deals in the next year, likely in New York City and California, where the company has already completed a lot of the pre-approval processes and is ready to rock.
“We started at Forest City with an idea, and it was a hairy, crazy idea that was a jumpstart on this whole idea of doing things better, faster and more progressively in the built environment,” Gilmartin said. “For me, it’s deeply gratifying to see that very early idea turned into something as sophisticated and as promising as what Assembly has put together today.”