The next Annapolis?
That's what developers hope to create along the Susquehanna River, as they breathe new life into some sleepy communities.
Owens Landing condominium and marina is starting up in Perryville, as is the Seneca Point condominium development in Havre de Grace. The Tome's Landing town house development in Port Deposit recently opened for business, and three years ago Canvasback Cove in Havre de Grace started selling condominiums.
"Everyone is excited" -- well, people from Philadelphia, Washington and Wilmington, Del., are, said Jerry Hansen, a broker for Century 21 Atlantic Real Estate in Havre de Grace.
Local residents haven't been as welcoming. "It's something new and different for the hometown folks," Mr. Hansen said. "Around here when you say 'condo' they think Ocean City."
The new developments must battle a weak real estate market. And sales at some similar developments around the nation have been hurt by tax law reform, which tightened some of the tax breaks available on a second home.
"We have a lot of professional people visiting for the day. They would like to own, but it's not practical," Mr. Hansen said.
Still, the projects may be the last seen along the Susquehanna's banks. There are limited opportunities for more building along the banks of the scenic river, which are protected from dense development by the state's 1984 Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law.
Because the Owens Landing development is inside Perryville's town limits, it is exempt from the state law. Tome's Landing in Port Deposit earned an exemption because the site formerly was used by industry. And in Havre de Grace, Seneca Point and Canvasback Cove both fall within the Havre de Grace Critical Area Plan.
Construction of Seneca Point is to start in September.
The 2.8-acre site is being developed by Headwater Construction of Newark, Del., and will contain 54 waterfront condominiums with 40 boat slips for sale.
Since its opening a few weeks ago, 20 units have been sold to people relocating from other homes in the area and to out-of-towners who want a waterfront retirement home, said Stephen Billings, project manager. "The water is the attraction," he said.
Also on the site is the Seneca Cannery Warehouse, a brick and stone building that dates from about 1860. In about a year, the developers plan to convert the building, which has been vacant for about 15 years, into a retail area.
Seneca Point offers four models ranging in size from 1,152 to 1,751 square feet that cost from $149,900 to $199,990. Boat slips are priced at $19,990. The first Seneca Point homes are scheduled to be completed next spring.
Across the river, the Owens family is plunging ahead with plans to develop an 8-acre Perryville site that housed a fish market and ice house dating from the early 1900s. The ice house operated until the 1930s and the fish market closed last September.
Plans for the Owens Landing development, which have been in the works more than two years, call for 114 units, with construction of the first 18 beginning the end of August. There are reservations for six homes, which the developers hope to complete by early fall.
Some of the early buyers plan to dock boats in the adjoining 219-slip marina that is owned by the Owens family. Hanford Owens recently retired from the family business, which is now jointly run by son Jeffrey Owens, daughter Cynthia Owens Campbell and son-in-law Stanley Campbell.
The basic Owens Landing condominium is 1,335 square feet; preconstruction prices start at $124,900. Some second-floor units with a third-floor, 620-square-foot loft sell for $143,900.
Each unit has two bedrooms; the loft is a flexible space that can be used for bedrooms, recreation rooms or an extra bath.
Towering within view of the new development is an Amtrak bridge that emits clanking sounds as trains pass over the river.
"I see it as a plus," says Mr. Campbell, vice president of Owens Associates Limited Partnership, which is developing the condominiums. "It's something you get used to, and we are only a few blocks from the MARC station."
The Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system originates in Perryville and carries commuters by train to Baltimore and Washington with stops in between.
"This is a great improvement to the area," said Perryville Mayor Oakley Sumpter Jr., who added that he hoped Owens Landing would also have a positive effect on surrounding areas.
Noting the blossoming of nearby Tome's Landing, the mayor attributed some of the sudden growth to the encouragement of Gov. William Donald Schaefer to develop areas of Maryland with adequate water and sewer capacity. Mr. Sumpter said the Perryville area is at about 50 percent capacity.
Perryville will be putting in a new road to Owens Landing, Mr. Sumpter said. The town is also negotiating with Conrail to buy an abandoned rail yard near the development to section off and sell to the mobile home owners who are currently renting their land.