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Bounded on the west by Lawrence Street and on the north, east and south by the Patapsco River, Locust Point is a peninsular neighborhood that has remained largely untouched by the development sweeping through much of Baltimore. With two glaring exceptions: the chic Silo Point condominiums and the Class “A” Tide Point business campus.
Locust Point remains what it has been for generations: a close community of small, lawn-less brick rowhouses, where residents hang their laundry outside to dry, tend the odd backyard rosebush and congregate at whichever local pub has earned their fierce loyalty.
Historically a blue-collar neighborhood and a center of Baltimore’s Polish-, Italian-, and Irish-American communities, Locust Point has long attracted commercial interests. It was home to a Coca-Cola syrup plant, a Procter & Gamble soap plant, and Indiana Grain silos, and still boasts a Domino Sugar refinery and the world headquarters of Phillips Foods. The neighborhood got an economic boost when athletic apparel company Under Armour set up its headquarters at Tide Point, where it employs hundreds.
Under Armour gets Locust Point OK for headquarters expansion
Under Armour Inc. got the OK Wednesday evening from Locust Point residents for a massive headquarters expansion, after the sportswear maker agreed to invest nearly $235,000 into the neighborhood and make some concessions on future building projects.
After some initial concern last year, more than 100 members of the Locust Point Civic Association unanimously voted to support Under Armour’s 400,000-square-foot expansion plan for its Tide Point campus — an unusually strong vote of confidence from a neighborhood association reviewing a major project.
Under Armour still needs approval from the City Council on amendments to a planned unit development, or PUD, which would give the company greater flexibility for expansion, including an allowance to build a 25,000-square-foot retail store. Under the current PUD, Under Armour has the authority to operate two retail shops, neither of which can be larger than 12,000 feet.
Under Armour’s plan also calls for office and parking expansions, as well as additional athletic facilities for employees. The campus expansion would happen over several years, with the retail store tentatively scheduled to break ground later this year, according to the company. Under Armour, which acquired the Tide Point complex in 2011 for $58 million, has yet to hire contractors.
The company did not need approval from the Locust Point Civic Association, a point thatKatie Hearn, co-chair of a neighborhood task force that studied the plan, drove home to members.
“This was happening no matter what, because every elected official in Baltimore City was going to make sure Under Armour grew and added jobs,” Hearn said. “And we weren’t going to get anything out of it unless we behaved like adults and figured out how to make it happen.”
Because of the neighborhood’s support, though, Under Armour has agreed to pay $100,000 for improvements to Latrobe Park and its adjacent recreation center over the next two years; $80,000 for Fort Avenue streetscape improvements; $40,000 for a Locust Point welcome sign; and at least $5,000 for the Locust Point Festival.
The company also has agreed to donate $10,000 of sporting equipment to the recreation center; volunteer employee time at Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School; allow residents to park on its property and to work with the Locust Point Civic Association on future parking and traffic improvements.
Shawn King, the company’s campus director, expressed Under Armour’s support for the plan at the neighborhood meeting, but declined to comment afterward.
In addition to community investment, Under Armour (NYSE: UA) also curtailed some of its construction plans. The company was seeking approval to build any structure up to 128 feet tall, but has agreed to construct just one building at that height and limit the rest to 85 feet or fewer.
Under Armour has also agreed to either leave well-recognized neon Tide Point sign as is orchange it to its own company name, instead of potentially another tenant’s name.
The company also agreed to improve public access to the water around its campus.
City Councilman William H. Cole IV said the agreement represents a long-term partnership between Under Armour and Locust Point.
“I think we all sat down at the beginning of this process and said, ‘Work it out and understand that you’re both in it for the long term,’ and they did,” Cole said. “It worked out very well.”
Although some Locust Point neighbors have expressed anxiety over Under Armour’s expansion, Hearn said the civic association wanted to support the company.
“We have not been working to stop it, to not let it happen,” she said. “We’ve been specifically working to figure out a way that Under Armour can grow its business within our community and it would work for everyone.
“It’s a recession we’re living in. There aren’t a lot of businesses in the city that are growing. We have one, a great one in our community.”
In a statement to the Business Journal, Under Armour executive Scott Plank said Thursday’s night vote “will help us move forward with our campus development and bring nearly a quarter of a million dollars in improvements to the community.”
Plank, executive vice president of business development, is the brother of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.
Bozzuto’s next Baltimore apartment project nods at Under Armour with fitness theme and proximity to campus
The nine-story, $80 million project will rise from the former General Electric Service Center site at 900 E. Fort Ave., across the street from Southside Marketplace, and will include a rooftop lounge, 15,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and a restaurant.
Amenities will include a third-floor yoga studio that opens onto a meditative courtyard lined with trees and stones and a fully landscaped fourth-floor pool that includes details such as boardwalks constructed using Black Locust lumber.
The building’s design is the most ambitious the company has yet pursued in Baltimore, Bozzuto President Toby Bozzuto said. The two most recent projects the company has delivered, the Fitzgerald in Mount Vernon and Union Wharf in Fells Point, were bothmet with acclaim for attention to design details and amenities.
“We want to build a legacy of beautiful projects and we’re constantly trying to up the ante,” Bozzuto said. “[Under Armour CEO] Kevin Plank said he wants to make Baltimore the coolest city in the world, and I agree. You can either laugh at a comment like that or you can actually try. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you build projects like this, you help reach that goal.”
In fact, much of the design at 900 E. Fort Ave. is a nod to Under Armour’s nearby campus in Locust Point. The central theme of the project is wellness, Bozzuto said, and amenities such as running paths and the yoga studio are aimed at attracting fitness enthusiasts who either work at Under Armour or are drawn to be near the company’s campus.
Rohit Anand of KTGY Group Inc. and the lead architect on the project, said a top goal from the start was to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the nearby waterfront. Richard Jones of Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. is the project’s landscape architect.
The views of the Inner Harbor, he said, will be key to drawing tenants who see the connection to the Inner Harbor as part of their everyday active life.
“For a project like this you have to pick the neighborhood, and in D.C., it would be like an H Street or a U Street neighborhood,” Anand said. “I think Locust Point is perfect for it because it’s a renter who wants to enjoy the city and what restaurants and retail and bike trails have to offer, and in this case, the water.”
That’s why the developer decided to include a rooftop lounge in the design, Bozzuto said. The project will have the first outdoor restaurant and bar offering 360-degree views of the city and Inner Harbor.
Part of the lounge will include a top-floor indoor space that will allow the lounge to remain open year-round.
On the first floor, a separate restaurant will be situated at the corner of Fort Avenue and Lawrence Street that will include outdoor seating. The restaurant was placed on that corner to help generate activity on a key corner that drivers see when they enter Locust Point, Anand said.
There will also be foot traffic generated around the 15,000 square feet of retail, but it’s not clear what type of uses Bozzuto plans to draw to the project.
Bozzuto’s partners in the project include Locust Point-based Solstice Partners LLC, who are aligned with former Under Armour executive Scott Plank’s city-based War Horse LLC real estate development firm. Solstice Partners has worked extensively with neighbors during the planning process, said Terri Harrington, a commercial real estate broker and a member of the Locust Point Civic Association.
Neighbors remain concerned about the traffic the complex will generate, and whether the 2 1/2 levels of indoor parking and surface parking will be enough. Bozzuto said the project provides more parking than zoning regulations require, but he acknowledged the concerns and said the company will work with neighbors throughout the course of the project.