This January, the first prospective residents will tour the brand-new apartment buildings. In March, the first apartment dwellers will move in. And with that, the South Baltimore peninsula’s newest neighborhood will be launched in the former industrial area of Port Covington.
The first phase of the massive planned community south of Interstate 95, which has been in the works since 2016, will open next year with a new name – “Baltimore Peninsula” – with planning underway to improve access to the nascent neighborhood for its SoBo neighbors.
The new name was announced on November 15 by the project’s development team with a social media blitz and a Baltimore Business Journal roundtable held inside one of the project’s new office buildings. “There was nothing wrong with ‘Port Covington,’” said MaryAnn Gilmartin, CEO of MAG Partners, in explaining how the new name was chosen. “But we see this as a neighborhood, a place that we invite people to. We wanted to go bold and we wanted to go big.
“We leveraged two really important things. The authenticity of a peninsula. It is a peninsula, and I like things that are true to themselves. And then there’s the brand – Baltimore – which we’re really big on. We want to leverage the brand in the most positive and pioneering ways so that it can really represent in a trend-setting and pioneering way a model for urban place-making, a model for more equitable place-making.”
Baltimoreans were not immediately sold on the new name, according to two independent online polls conducted the week following the announcement. The WYPR-FM “Midday” program survey, which was conducted on Twitter and Instagram and received 73 responses, found that 10.3-13 percent of responders “loved” the new name while the rest “hated” it or thought it should be changed.
The Peninsula Post’s online poll found that 5 percent of responders “liked” the new name, 5 percent had “no strong feelings” about it, and 90 percent “did not like it.” The majority of responses (80 percent of the 308 received) were from SoBo peninsula residents.
Many of the comments received in the poll pointed out that the new name was confusing, since Port Covington is part of the larger South Baltimore peninsula. And the question was raised whether the Port Covington area is actually a peninsula.
Former SoBo resident Kevin Lewis, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, addressed this question in an email exchange with the Peninsula Post:
“The word peninsula comes from paene (almost) plus insula (island). The whole South Baltimore peninsula is pretty close to an island, with only a small neck connecting it to the mainland. But is Port Covington ‘almost an island’? I think not. A point or promontory would be a better geographic term. Even something like Sparrows Point is closer to a peninsula than Port Covington.”
Whether peninsula, point, or port, how the Port Covington area connects to and impacts neighboring SoBo communities drew questions during the November 15 roundtable.
In response to a question submitted in advance by the Peninsula Post about how the project plans to improve access for neighbors living across I-95, MAG Partners’ Gilmartin said that her team is working on the issue.
“For people who live in Federal Hill, it’s just not that easy to get here whether you’re walking, biking, or in a car. We need to improve that. When I think about how we’re going to make it better, I think about greenways and secure bike paths and pedestrian walkways.”
A spokesperson for MAG Partners later confirmed via email that the development team is evaluating the proposed pedestrian/bike bridge from Westport to the Swann Park area presented last year in the Reimagine Middle Branch plan (see Peninsula Post, December 2021, page 2). No other details of planned access improvements were released.
Sam Cogen, president of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association, asked Gilmartin about plans to prevent city services such as fire and police from being drawn away from the rest of the peninsula as the new development grows.
“We’re creating a business improvement district,” Gilmartin said. “What that ought to do is be a supplementary way to enhance services and not strain city services through a tax levied on participants in the Baltimore Peninsula footprint. That BID is in formation.”
Baltimore Peninsula is a 235-acre redevelopment project funded by Sagamore Ventures and the Urban Investment Group of Goldman Sachs. The current phase of the development will include 416 new residences, 20 percent of which will be on-site affordable housing units. – Steve Cole
This article was originally published December 9 in the newspaper edition of the South Baltimore Peninsula Post.