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How much does Port Convington really cost?

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-12 14:14:00-05

The ads are well produced, meant to give you chills, elicit pride in Baltimore and what this city can be.

"I think when you look at Baltimore, we need to grow and this is a tremendous opportunity to grow," said CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation Bill Cole. 

He calls Port Covington a game changer. Not only does it retain Under Armor in the city, it is providing almost 150 acres of public use and parks; a city within a city.

But before all that can be built, almost $1.5 billion needs to be spent creating public roads, intersections and utilities. While the feds and the state will provide almost $900 million, it requires matching funds of more than $500 million from Baltimore City.

"Without the horizontal development. Without the basic core infrastructure, you can't do the vertical and we don't have the capital necessary to plow into any project at this point," Cole said.

Sagamore Development, the company behind the project is asking for the city's contribution in the form of tax increment financing, or TIF. It's bonds sold by the city to afford the work and then later repaid by property taxes generated by the new project.

The TIF for Port Covington would be the largest in city history and was a topic in Thursday night’s mayoral debate. Some candidates criticized the plan as a big ask from a multi-billion dollar company.

"TIF is not a tax break, it is not a give-a-way, and it is not a hand out," Steven Siegel of Sagamore said.

Responding to that criticism, Executive Vice President of Sagamore Development Steven Siegel points out none of the TIF money will be used for the Under Armour campus.

The money is to build out the foundation for the public part of the project. Combine the two and Sagamore says it is a sound bet on Baltimore.

"We saw an opportunity to assemble a lot of land, to create a new home for Under Armour to continue to grow and thrive in the city and next to it to create an amazing world class, mixed use development project that will truly be transformational for the city," Siegel said.

It is a transformation that could take 25 years and Sagamore promises it will focus on local jobs and local companies to finish to project.

"This project is for the city and it will have a tremendous number of opportunities that are created down there and we would love to put as many people from this city to work as possible," Siegel said.

The total price tag for this entire project is about $5 billion. The plan was first revealed to the Baltimore Development Corporation this week. It will continue studying the proposal before suggesting the TIF to the mayor.