Sports apparel maker Under Armour Inc., which expects to outgrow its headquarters in Baltimore's Tide Point in about five years, is eyeing West Covington, an industrial swath of Middle Branch shoreline that city officials want to transform into an extensive mixed-use development.
Officials at Baltimore Development Corp. have talked with Under Armour executives about West Covington and several other city sites as a possible home for a future corporate headquarters in an effort to help the company grow, said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC.
"It's obviously in the city's interest to try to find possibilities for them within the 80 square miles of Baltimore," Brodie said. "We've looked at all sorts of sites together, and one of the sites that is of interest to them is West Covington."
Under Armour executives declined to comment yesterday, said Tai Foster, a spokesman. The fast-growing company, which has been expanding into new markets, is planning to add 350 employees at a redeveloped warehouse near its 450-person headquarters at the Tide Point business park in Locust Point.
The city's plan to add West Covington to the redevelopment effort that is beginning to transform industrial sections of the Patapsco River's Middle Branch has sparked controversy. Business and property owners say they don't want to move and argue they already provide the jobs and economic development that urban renewal would bring.
The city envisions homes, offices and shops on about 50 acres the city would need to assemble in an area bounded by Interstate 95 on the north, Hanover Street on the east and the Middle Branch on the west.
Brodie said yesterday that BDC officials have been in regular contact with Under Armour as the company has grown over the past several years.
"It's been phenomenal growth, and they have equally large-scale growth projected," Brodie said.
Developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, owner of Tide Point, said last month that the company plans to buy a 7.2-acre property between Beason Street and Key Highway and renovate a warehouse for offices for Under Armour's expansion.
Brodie said Under Armour has indicated that expansion would help accommodate growth for about five more years.
"But at the end of that period, they ... will need a lot more space," the BDC chief said. "Our exploration with them has been about future Under Armour locations, but what all that might involve would be yet to be fleshed out."
Corporate headquarters are viewed as key anchors in large, mixed-use developments that strive to revitalize areas with new housing, employment, shopping and entertainment.
Downtown, money manager Legg Mason Inc. plans to relocate its headquarters to a tower under construction in the Harbor East mixed-use community. Morgan Stanley said last year that it would be a tenant and bring 900 jobs to Harbor Point, an $830 million office and residential campus that broke ground near Fells Point last week.
For the city to begin acquiring private properties in West Covington, the City Council must adopt a proposed urban renewal plan for the area. That plan is being reviewed by the city Planning Commission. Council approval would enable the city to start assembling properties and put out a request for bids from developers.
Brodie said Under Armour executives are aware that the West Covington redevelopment must go through that public process "and they might not be the only people interested in it."
Businesses with operations in West Covington that objected to the city's urban renewal plans at a Planning Commission hearing earlier this month included Schuster Concrete, a ready-mixed concrete supplier that employs 900 people in the region, and Allied Waste, which has a recycling facility at West Covington.
A representative of Baltimore-based homebuilder Ruppert Homes said the builder signed a sales contract three years ago to purchase property owned by Atlantic Forest Products and still hopes to build homes there.