Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Sagamore Development: What Else Can you Do?
Given how much of a lost cause Port Covington had been and now all of the excitement that is being stirred up by its eventual status as the "Gateway to the City" or a "Greener Inner Harbor" or the "return of manufacturing Jobs to the City", it makes think what else Sagamore Development can do. There are several beleaguered and stalled developments in part of the City that by all rights, should have improved many times over. In some cases, the biggest obstacle these areas face is the lack of staying power on the part of the developers. Given the tremendous growth of Under Armour and the coming growth that redeveloping Port Covington will generate, Sagamore can and should begin looking elsewhere in the City to make a mark. But Where?
The first place is quite obvious; The Super Block. Where else in Downtown have there been more false starts and forks in the road? Originally, this was supposed to be a complete tear down and rebuild from scratch. Then Historic Preservationists saw the beautiful architecture in these decaying buildings and opted to safe them. That created another problem. Very few Retailers want to sign a lease in an old space not designed for their needs. Indeed, the super block spaces are long and narrow for the most part and the required investment to modernize these old buildings staggering to say the least.
Over the years, the super block has seen many developers and investors show interest in it. Each time however, something has forced them to pull out (whether it be lack of finances or their plans not meeting the City's expectations for historic preservationists) thereby leaving the buildings to further decay and rot. This is why I want Sagamore Development to take the financing portion at the very least. This project needs deep pockets to hold on to the land while plans are being finalized as well as to take on the roll of demolishing the back of these buildings and stripping them down only to their front facades to keep their historical integrity intact. This will also allow the insides of the buildings to be built straight to the specifications of Retailers who could then be lured into leasing space at Super Block.
Now we come to Lexington Market. Although Lexington Market itself is receiving a $2 Million renovation, its surroundings could use a shot in the arm. The paring garage across Paca St. from Lexington Market was supposed to be redeveloped as a Apartment and Condo high rises with a few town homes as well. The parking garage and therefore the project, was to be located between Paca St, Greene St. Lexington St., and Saratoga St. The bold project, known as "The Residences at Lexington Market" despite having my support, was not meant to be. Like many other redevelopment projects was shelved due to the recession and never heard from again.
What Lexington Market suffers from is a lack of Residences near by. To create a true Downtown Neighborhood, there must be a certain mix between Residential, Retail, and Commercial. Ironically a few blocks east on Howard St., it suffers from lack of Retail and a plethora of Residences. I think Sagamore Development can be a big help in redeveloping that same parking garage (the plans can be modified) as well a block south of the Market; between Lexington St., Eutaw St., Paca St., and Fayette St. This will be a similar to mid to high rise Apartment/Condo building that will help introduce a Residential component to Lexington Market which should help the area turn a corner which is something that the area has been trying to do.
Given that David S. Brown Enterprises has taken on the redevelopment of the vacant Social Security headquarters, that gives Sagamore Development on less job to take on. But worry not, I still have one more project that's perfect for Sagamore; State Center. Given the fact that the State of Maryland has all but walked a away from massive redevelopment project and is original partner, Streuver Brothers, Eccles, and Rouse went bankrupt, this project needs fresh capital in order to jump start it.
I think the next logical step for Sagamore Development is to revive State Center. First off they need to renovate and/or rebuild the decaying State Offices that are sitting on a portion of the site. Then, they need to wait and see what the market dictates their next step is. I think a big blow for this project was when it was scaled back not to include McCulloh Homes. The decaying public housing project is just next door to State Center and suffers from crime, drugs, and increasingly poor living conditions. A high end project such as State Center would prefer not to have that as their Neighbors.
So in addition to the current parcels of land, State Center should once again include McCulloh Homes. The Market might not be ready right away for such a huge influx of new mixed use coming down the pipeline. As a result, Sagamore needs to treat this as a long term investment. The problem with long term investments is that paying large taxes on vacant land can quite easily bankrupt a company. This is why we need a development firm such as Sagamore Development that's making money on Port Covington in the meantime to help finance the land of State Center until the market readies itself for redevelopment.