Marc Weller, the founder and president of Weller Development Co., was only 15 years old when he started his own landscaping business. In exchange for work he did for his father, his father bought him the equipment he needed to attract clients.
Weller recalls the immense satisfaction he felt when he completed his first big mulching job along with the help of a friend in which they planted large beds of geraniums. He remembers being dirty and sweaty, and surveying his achievement at the end of the day. He thought to himself, “How cool to see what we accomplished — and to think, we actually got paid for it!”
That feeling of accomplishment stayed with Weller, and he transferred it to real estate development. For more than 25 years, he built apartment buildings and single-family homes. Instead of completing a project in one day, he now may wait five to 10 years for a project to be completed, and although the result is much greater than planting geraniums, he still has that same great sense of satisfaction.
He has always remained true to his core principle: He believes that if you do great work and create a good product, the money will come. His goal is to make things better than they were when he first saw them.
Baltimore residents are likely familiar with Weller’s current endeavor: the Port Covington development project. Chapter 1 of the 235-acre real estate development will be built on 12 city blocks and include 1.38 million square feet of office space, nearly 340,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 1 million square feet of residential space, with 285,000 square feet designated for hotel space. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.
Marc Weller and Kevin Plank: Developers of the Port Covington Project
Weller is joined in the Port Covington Project with his long-time friend, Kevin Plank, owner and founder of Under Armour, maker of moisture-wicking T-shirts. Plank started Under Armour in his grandmother’s basement and it has grown to be, according to Forbes Magazine, “the largest digital health and fitness company on Earth.”
So, how did two highly successful businessmen, a T-shirt manufacturer and real estate developer, come to work together on the Port Covington project? Perhaps serendipity was a contributing factor.
When Weller was in high school, one of his good friends was Bill McDermond (Billy Mac), who later became an early Under Armour executive. When Billy Mac went to college, he became good friends with Kevin Plank. Billy Mac introduced his two good friends to each other. Weller and Plank stayed in touch from then on, seeing each other sporadically at social events. During the ensuing years, each man became a successful businessman in his own right.
In 2012, Plank called Weller and invited him to meet at Plank’s office in Baltimore. They talked about how to develop projects that would make the city a better place for residents and employers, and also how to help create jobs.
It was exactly the type of project Weller had always wanted to do. He says, “I was completely sold. I wanted to sign up immediately.”
The two men became partners in Sagamore Development Company with a handshake. In the summer of 2016, they unveiled their plans for Port Covington. The project involves transforming 45 city blocks. Weller noted that planning for a project of this size must be “thoughtful” since it really amounts to a city annex.
The partners put the entire plan together before inviting in investors. When attracting investors, they focused on what is already good about Baltimore, and not “celebrating” what is wrong. The new development company excited potential investors by introducing them to the incredible food scene and world-class hotels. They took them on a water taxi tour and inspired them with the opportunity of creating jobs.
In September 2017, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group invested $233 million in the project as well as a $660 million tax increment financing (TIF) package. The TIF was approved by the Baltimore City Council to fund the project’s infrastructure, including building of roads.
In the summer of 2019, ground was broken for the Port Covington project Chapter 1. The company was incredibly fortunate with how quickly it was able to complete the horizontal construction, such as the roads, water, and sewer. They had five straight months with almost no rain, which allowed them to complete that potion of the project ahead of schedule.
Building is now in the vertical stage with the plans focused on quality buildings that are not too tall and not too big. Weller says, “We are building on a human scale. We can go up later if we need to.”
The streets will be curb-free in order to accommodate festivals and parades. A significant amount of money is going into landscaping, with planting designed to provide shade. The goal is to have a combination of buildings, landscape, and open space that will set the project apart, but still be very Baltimore. Today’s user will feel a sense of genuine comfort that will make them “want to come down there and spend time.”