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Building Boom on the Waterfront

Harbor East Grows Up

July 8, 2007
By Mary Medland

 
 

A decade ago, the Baltimore area we now call Harbor East was a forlorn, downtrodden neck of the woods. To put it mildly.

Today Harbor East is studded with construction sites for hotels, condos, apartments, townhouses, pubs, restaurants and shops. Nearly 1,500 rental units, 800 condominiums and 50 townhouses are expected to be built in downtown Baltimore by 2010, according to the Downtown Partnership.

“Over the course of the past 10 years, the Inner Harbor East projects have been the largest developments in Baltimore City,” says Chris Janian, assistant development manager for H&S Properties Development Corp. H&S is currently putting up a twin-tower project, with one tower for Legg Mason’s new headquarters and the other for the Four Seasons hotel chain. The price tag: about $600 million. (At press time, the Baltimore City Council was considering a bill that would give H&S a $33 million tax break to keep Legg Mason in town.)

This neck of the woods is now so hot that Long & Foster realtors Frances Duganand Nadya Workman moved their office there in March. “This area is absolutely booming as it attracts empty nesters and young professionals from Johns Hopkins and the downtown community,” Dugan says. Many condos are also being snapped up by people from Denver, New York and Boston who spend time here on business, Workman adds.

Figures aren’t available for the number of women buying residences in Harbor East, but Ryland Homes’ Earl Robinson points out that single women are the fastest-growing group of homebuyers nationwide. “Fifty-one percent of American women are single, and women tend to be into nesting,” says Robinson, vice president for sales and marketing.

(A 2006 survey by the National Association of Realtors revealed that 40 percent of Baltimore City homebuyers last year were women — nearly twice the national average. Most homebuyers nationwide are married couples, followed by single women.)

The apartments, condos and townhouses going up now in Harbor East join a stock that began being built more than a decade ago. The granddaddy — and the building closest to the central business district — is Scarlett Place, with 14 stories and 147 units.

Of the new arrivals, the “most ambitious” award goes to The Vue Harbor East, a 23-story building whose residents should begin moving in late this year. The first four floors will be mixed-use space; a Hilton hotel will occupy floors 5 through 10. From there on up, the space is for condos. Of the 160 units, only eight were still on the market at press time. A 1,300-square-foot penthouse comes with a cool $2.5 million price tag.

Not surprisingly, where renters and homeowners go, services follow. “We’ve heard that The Gap is coming, as well as a Nordstrom boutique, a health club and a classic movie theater,” Dugan says.

Spinnaker Bay is another Harbor East pillar. Already open, it boasts 315 apartments, 32 condos and 43,000 square feet of retail space. When the condos at Spinnaker Bay came on the market in 2005, they sold in the high $500,000 range. “These units are very elegant and contemporary,” says Nancy Goldsmith, vice president of business development for The Bozzuto Group, the management agent for the project. All of the apartments were taken by 2006.

Spinnaker Bay’s amenities include a fitness center, club room and two-story lobby with limestone floors and a grand staircase. On the ground floor are a number of upscale restaurants, including The Oceanaire Seafood Room and Lebanese Taverna.

In a partnership with H&S — owner John Paterakis is responsible for much of the area’s activity — Bozzuto is managing The Promenade at Harbor East, which opened in 1997. A mixed-use space, the Promenade has 113 apartments, two retail spaces, a parking garage, a fitness center and a business center. The Promenade contains corporate apartments, as well as units rented by people undergoing long-term medical treatment in Baltimore, Goldsmith says.

For an idea of prices: Studio apartments at the Promenade rent for $1,335 a month. A one-bedroom unit is $1,610 and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit is $2,225. The penthouses begin at $3,400. “The No. 1 draw here is being on the water,” Goldsmith says.

Just west of Spinnaker Bay, ground has been broken for the Four Seasons/Legg Mason towers. The buildings are expected to open in about three years.

A few blocks to the north, at Central Avenue and Bank Street, the historic Canal Street Malt House is being renovated. It will have 10 loft condos, while a new adjoining building will contain about 30.

Dugan doesn’t see any end to Harbor East development: “The supply is definitely less than the demand in this area.”