Wharf complex becomes popular place to berth Fells Point project is 67 percent leased

July 07, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Six months after it reopened as rental apartments, the Henderson's Wharf residential complex in Fells Point has lost one of its development partners and is operating under new management. But the 125 apartments are renting faster than expected, with 67 percent already leased.

Richard Holland, an Atlanta-based developer, has left the development team to pursue other projects. Last fall, he joined with an affiliate of Boston Bay Capital Inc. of Boston to acquire the 125 apartments and a 38-room inn inside the former tobacco warehouse at 1000 Fell St.

Boston Bay, a real estate brokerage that specializes in raising capital for the rehabilitation of historic properties, bought out Mr. Holland's share of the project for an undisclosed sum several months ago and has brought in its own management team, Hillcrest Management Inc.

Linda Lowe, who was general manager of the apartment and inn complex while it was a joint venture of Mr. Holland's Richland Realty and Boston Bay Capital, has been retained to serve as general manager for Boston Bay. She said Mr. Holland left the partnership under good terms and is now working on a development in Germany.

Ms. Lowe added that work has been completed on about $8 million worth of renovations that the development team launched last fall. That work includes remodeling the entrance lobby, upgrading mechanical systems and reconfiguring an open-air courtyard in the center of the building.

Work on a swimming pool and waterfront promenade planned for a site next to the building has been pushed back to next year, the owners say.

NB Rents for most of the residences range from $700 to $2,000 per

month, with some special apartments renting for up to $3,500.

Ms. Lowe attributed the rapid lease-up to amenities such as the wharf-level inn and the waterfront location, within easy walking distance of the restaurants and nightspots of Fells Point.

"Even though the market in general has been slow, the market down here has been amazing," she said. "We've done a lot of leasing to people coming from out of the city, and Johns Hopkins University has been a tremendous asset. The corporate market has been very interested in the property, too. They have really put it to use."

The inn is one of the first in Baltimore to be a "smoke-free" hospitality environment, and that has helped attract bookings from health-oriented groups such as Johns Hopkins, Ms. Lowe said.

Apartment residents also receive a discount rate for guests of theirs who stay at the inn, and many are taking advantage of that, Ms. Lowe said.

Boston Bay Capital's local affiliate, Henderson's Wharf Baltimore Limited Partnership, controls all but 12 units in the seven-story building plus two acres of adjacent waterfront property.

The other 12 units belong to people who purchased them from a previous developer, Carley Capital Group, which went bankrupt before completing the project.

Founded 12 years ago, Boston Bay has 16 projects around the country, both office and residential complexes.

George Wilson, president of Hillcrest, and Terrence Sullivan, president of Boston Bay, said their 125 apartments at Henderson's Wharf will be converted to condominiums when market conditions are appropriate, most likely in the second half of the 1990s.

To enable investors to qualify for tax credits for historic preservation, the 125 apartments must continue to be rented for at least five more years, they said.

Ms. Lowe said that, judging by the current pace of leasing, she hopes to have the building fully occupied by Nov. 1.

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