DEVELOPER REQUESTS PUBLIC FINANCING FOR $1.4 BILLION WATERFRONT PROJECT
By Andrew Cannarsa
The Baltimore Examiner
Westport Waterfront plans to turn a 54-acre industrial area into a $1.4 billion residential, retail and office development along the Patapsco River's Middle Branch.
"We have the excellent prospect of following the water," BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie said.
Owner-developer Patrick Turner has acquired the land, formerly locations of Carr-Lowery Glass Co. and a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. plant, and plans to revive the area in the next six to seven years.
Turner has said it will cost $150 million to develop the land â€” including infrastructure, environmental remediation, roads and utilities â€” to be ready for a mixture of home, office and other construction.
Of that $150 million, Turner requested $90 million come from Tax Increment Financing â€” a form of public financing that allows the city to borrow money to cover a developer's nfrastructure costs; over time, the city is repaid from future tax revenues generated by the new developments.
While Turner requested $90 million, the city would have to borrow $117 million to build capital interest and debt reserve funds. The $27 million is added because loan payments need to be made while the project is being built, before project revenues start generating tax dollars.
There were just too many numbers for the Baltimore Development Corp.'s Project Review and Oversight Committee to give TIF approval Wednesday. The committee said it needed future discussion to agree on a recommendation for the BDC Board. That recommendation would ultimately go before the City Council for approval.
Brodie made it clear to the committee the city has no legal obligations to pay the loans. The responsibility falls on the developer.
Michael Pokorny, of BDC, told the board that Turner plans to sell lots to developers and believes he won't have a problem repaying the loans.
"The city's risk is [that] the project doesn't perform as we expect it to," he said.
The committee briefly listened to a similar TIF plan for a 27-acre Harbor Point project, planned by Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, before agreeing to meet for future discussion on the TIF proposals.
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