An Annapolis home builder hopes to breathe new life into a stalled waterfront community that sits across the Kent Narrows Bridge, a 20-minute drive from the state capital.
In the mid-1980s, the original developer dubbed Oyster Cove a "pearl on the Shore" that offered the best of rural waterfront living, a 115-slip marina, a clubhouse, tennis courts and a swimming pool.
But principals of Washington-based Smithy Braedon Co. built only half the planned 230 condominiums and town houses. Few in the Kent Island watermen's community or from elsewhere, it seemed, could or would pay up to $269,000 for a condo or $350,000 for a town house. Sales lagged during last year's real estate crunch.
In October, Second National Federal Savings Bank, the mortgage holder and developer of all the boat slips, foreclosed on the project.
But Oyster Cove has begun to rebound.
JMG Development Corp., the Annapolis builder of Belvoir Farms and Stonington in Anne Arundel County, agreed in mid-March to purchase Oyster Cove's undeveloped building sites.
Next month, the builder will start work on the first of about 110 waterfront town houses, with prices ranging from $150,000 to $175,000.
JMG expects to complete the first of its new homes, on a portion of the nearly 35-acre property that extends into Prospect Bay, as early as fall.About 60 boat slips will be available with those homes, selling for $25,000 and $35,000.
The developer expects that prospective home owners will be drawn by a location just south of the Chesapeake Bay, where they can keep their boats and still drive in less than an hour to Annapolis and the Washington and Baltimore beltways.
The new Kent Narrows Bridge, completed early last fall, offers another plus for boaters. The bridge was built higher than the old one and should prove less of an obstacle to yachtsmen navigating the Narrows.
"We expect that sales will be brisk," said Henry A. Berliner, president of Second National. "This is the last piece of waterfront property in a development available on Kent Island."
One good sign, Berliner says, is the pace of sales since the foreclosure auction.
The bank hadsold off 14 finished units and eight boat slips at the Oct. 27 auction.Smithy Braedon agreed to buy back the remaining 19 condos and townhouses. That left the bank with a $4 million investment in the land and boat slips, which it expects to recoup as JMG develops the lots.
Since October, Smithy Braedon has sold eight of the homes it took back. Eleven condos remain, some on waterfront property, all with a water view, priced in the $145,000 to $170,000 range.
"I'm surprised they continued to sell when the final development rights hadn't been awarded," Berliner said. "The factthat they continued to sell tellsus this is considered a fairly desirable piece of property."
Thisyear, unlike last, Oyster Cove's time has come, Berliner said.
"They were building units at a time when the market was not as good forresort projects," he said. "We think the situation has changed in the last six months. The bridge and road were torn up during that period. The new bridge has been completed. The access to the property is improved and the view has improved."