Ellicott City Condos Struggle To Survive The Recession

January 12, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

When Annapolis developer Robert Boggs put his Greystone condominium complex in historic Ellicott City on the market last spring, he predicted that all 20 units would be sold by the summer.

But the recession and a weak real estate market interfered with his plans.

By fall, only five units had been sold. A member of the development partnership had to back out because of financial problems, and theGreystone complex was temporarily taken off the market.

Despite the setbacks, Boggs has confidence in the $8 million project at 3700 College Ave., and is in the process of restructuring the partnership with the intention of putting Greystone back on the market by the end of the month.

"It's a really unique project, and we're happy with it," said Boggs, of Annapolis. "We're not going to make anywhere nearthe margin of profit we anticipated, but we can take a small amount of pride knowing that we took a burned-out building and turned it into something that's at least not an eyesore."

The centerpiece of the project is a four-story stone building that dates from the 1840s, sitting on 4.5 acres and overlooking the historic town. Abandoned for nearly a decade, the former school was renovated and now houses 20 luxury condominiums.

Construction is expected to start again by the end of the month on the second phase of the project, 28 three-story town houses that will flank the old school on three sides.

Althoughmany people expressed interest in the development last spring and summer, the economy prevented them from buying the units, Boggs said.

One of the major obstacles for potential buyers was their inabilityto sell their current homes, Boggs said. At that time, they were only able to get 70 percent of the price of their house, he said.

Now, with interest rates at 8 percent, their lowest level in 17 years, Boggs is optimistic that sales will turn around.

"We got a hold of the project on the downside of the market. And when the market started deteriorating, it kept on going and going and going," Boggs said. "Now, with the interest rates recovering back to where they were, I think you'll see a good market between now and spring."

Once the project returns to the market, it will be handled by the Ellicott City office of O'Conor Piper and Flynn instead of the Annapolis office. Boggs expects that local Realtors who are more familiar with the property will also help sales.

"It's a wonderful project. The condos are very, very unusual, very upscale," said Sandy Mitchell, sales managerof the O'Conor Piper and Flynn's Ellicott City office. "With the interest rates down, I expect it's going to be a very successful project."

The central building was built to house a private academy for men. A Catholic order purchased the school in 1857 and renamed it RockHill College. But in 1923, fire destroyed the college. Three years later, the structure was rebuilt as a combined elementary and high school for Ellicott City. The school closed in 1976.

The condominiumshave 12-foot ceilings, a security system and private yards or balconies in many units. They range from $137,500 to $229,900 according to fall real estate listings.

Town house amenities include built-in garages and decks. Prices range from $185,000 to $215,000.

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