Belt's Landing developers set price cuts, sales blitz

September 10, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Philander Wallace was getting lonely. He bought a waterfront town house on the pier at Belt's Landing in Fells Point in April 1991, then waited and waited -- he and his wife were the only people in the whole development -- while the original developers went broke, and Maryland National Bank took over the $24 million community.

Mr. Wallace is lonely no more. The development team that bought the project from Maryland National last month announced the details of drastic price cuts yesterday at the 102-unit community. The group said it plans a sales blitz that it hopes will sell out the development by Sunday.

"It's a nut house here today," said Joel Gamel, a New York developer and liquidator who is a partner in the new ownership group.

The new price scale runs from $89,000 for one-bedroom condominiums to penthouses starting at $189,000, way down from pre-recession prices of $209,000 to penthouses costing $359,000 and up.

"The reason this can now work is that there's enough profit margin to sell units at a competitive price and still yield a profit to the developer," said Jenifer Stick, an appraiser with Lipman, Frizzell & Mitchell in Lutherville who has worked as a consultant to Mr. Gamel's group. "With the previous debt of $21 million, the forces of supply and demand would never be in balance."

The old owners lost control of the project last winter. Maryland National sold nine town houses to individual owners at an auction in March but was unable to lure an acceptable bid for the building containing the condominiums. The bank took control of that building temporarily.

The new owners paid $4.2 million for 92 condominium and town house units and have spent $2 million on renovations in the past month. They are best-known locally for converting the Belvedere Hotel downtown to condominiums.

It has taken them 14 months to sell all but seven of the 112 units at the Belvedere, but Mr. Gamel said the new team has already sold more than 40 Belt's Landing units since taking over the project, helped by publicity surrounding the sale that hinted at price cuts.

"I think the last unit will be sold by Saturday or Sunday, and there will be 40 backup sales" in case some buyers can't qualify for financing, Mr. Gamel said. "I'm not giving you hype."

Mr. Gamel said the partners plan an official grand opening Saturday, and will keep the sales office open as late as there are any customers willing to look around -- around the clock if necessary.

The new prices are possible because Maryland National absorbed a major loss, taking over a property whose former owners owed $21.4 million and selling it for $4.2 million.

If the new owners can sell the units for their base price, the total price for the 92 units would come to about $10.1 million -- much more than the $6 million-plus they invested over the past month.

Mr. Gamel said the new asking prices work out to $84 to $110 a square foot; he said it costs $175 to $190 a square foot to build comparable homes.

Even Mr. Wallace was intrigued. He and his wife bought a condominium yesterday to go with their town house.

He said they see it as an investment and plan to rent it out.

The new owners "have certainly improved the appearance of the place," said Mr. Wallace, 58. "I'm sure a lot of local people are glad to see it on its feet again. It's depressing to have a depressed property in the neighborhood."

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