Under Armour to buy entire Tide Point complex

Will convert former Procter & Gamble plant to a corporate campus

January 27, 2011|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Under Armour is to announce today that it will buy the Tide Point waterfront office complex in Locust Point to serve as a corporate campus, cementing the international sports apparel company's home in Baltimore.

The company now occupies nearly half of the 400,000-square-foot Tide Point complex, but for several years it has been on the hunt for a campus, a feature boasted by rival Nike and other sports companies.

Under Armour's search has sent executives across the country to study campuses maintained by firms such as Quicksilver, PacSun, Google and Intuit. Under Armour also contemplated a building along the Baltimore waterfront in West Covington.

But about six months ago, Under Armour's leadership begin to think it had already found its home at Tide Point, once a Procter & Gamble manufacturing plant that made detergents.

The decision to create a local campus came shortly after Under Armour invested $14.2 million last year to further expand at Tide Point, adding 14 showrooms, an "innovation lab," expansive meeting spaces and a basketball court. The Under Armour logo is prominently displayed at the entrance to the complex.

"We look at this as securing our future," said J. Scott Plank, executive vice president of business development and brother of company founder Kevin Plank. "We decided, why rip up our roots and move someplace else?"

Under Armour is still working out exactly what the campus will look like. At present, the complex has several tenants with leases, including Advertising.com and Mercy Health Services. Plank said the company also has not decided whether the complex will keep the Tide Point name.

"What we are trying to do is wrestle this idea to the ground," Plank said. "We haven't made all the decisions yet, but this will be Under Armour's campus."

The company did not release financial details of the transaction Wednesday. But the announcement of the deal, expected to close in 60 to 90 days, comes at a time when buyers have an advantage because of a backlog of available real estate.

"We were very fortunate that we are in a very good position to be able to make the acquisition, and the landlord wanted to sell the building," Plank said. The complex is owned by Hull Street LLC.

The Tide Point property is the brainchild of C. William Struever, a developer responsible for some of Baltimore's most prominent projects who saw his fortunes tumble during the recession. Tide Point opened in 2001 in the heart of Locust Point as a hub for high-tech companies. The five buildings that make up the complex are named after Procter & Gamble products such as Joy and Tide.

Struever recently helped found a new venture, Cross Street Partners, which Plank said will manage the campus.

Under Armour has exploded from a company with a just a handful of employees when it moved to Tide Point in 2002 to more than 1,500 in Maryland today, including 1,000 at the Tide Point headquarters.

Plank said owning the entire Tide Point complex will allow for growth.

"We need space for international, we need space for innovation and marketing functions," Plank said. "Under Armour is a company that is going to continue to grow."

A campus is also a sign of a company's prominence. It's not only an impressive place to bring potential clients but is the "face" of a brand.

"As we look at a global headquarters and look to attract talent and attract clients, we need an energetic headquarters," Plank said.

City and state officials said they were pleased with Under Armour's decision to expand its presence in Baltimore.

Under Armour is receiving no government incentives as part of the Tide Point deal. In the past, the company has received tax credits and other incentives.

"It demonstrates a lasting commitment by the company's leadership to stay, grow and create more jobs in Baltimore City," said Ryan O'Doherty, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "Under Armour and Baltimore have become synonymous with each other, and that's something we can all take pride in."

State officials, including Gov. Martin O'Malley, met with Under Armour executives last summer to discuss the importance of the company's presence in Maryland.

"We are happy they are making the commitment to purchase that property and make it more officially their home," Christian S. Johansson, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said in an interview Wednesday.

Laurie Schwartz, executive director of the Waterfront Partnership, said Under Armour's presence could spur more local development.

"It's a huge vote of confidence by an international company," Schwartz said. "That kind of commitment speaks volumes to other companies looking to invest in that specific area. I would expect to see further investment clustered around them."


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