Harborview Condos: A Site To Behold

August 01, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

From Key Highway, the newest condo tower along the city skyline resembles a typical Depression-era apartment or office building.

From the former Bethlehem Steel pier jutting 1,000 feet from the condos' marina into Baltimore Harbor, the building looks like a gigantic lighthouse surrounded by water on three sides.

Up close, the tower is more like a resort -- offering luxury living quarters, a half-mile of waterfront, 410 boat slips, indoor and outdoor pools, a health club and a dockside restaurant.

As the first of six planned towers nears completion, the developers of HarborView condos near Federal Hill are banking on empty-nesters, single professionals and boaters shelling out up to $1.5 million for minimum upkeep and maximum pampering.

Two months before the scheduled opening of what its developers hope will become a 42-acre village of some 1,600 condos and small shops -- including convenience stores, dry cleaners and hair salons -- HarborView Properties Development Co. is upbeat about its more than $100 million waterfront gambit.

"[In Baltimore], no one has had an opportunity for this large a piece of land on the water," said Stuart Hettleman, executive vice president of HarborView Properties. "There is a real market for people looking to move to a new lifestyle."

HarborView is being developed by HarborView Properties and partners Parkway Holdings Limited, a public company from Singapore.

Since April, when sales opened for the tower known as One Hundred HarborView Drive, HarborView has locked in contracts and reservations for 90 of the 248 units in the first building -- worth $20 million -- a promising sign, Mr. Hettleman says, considering the tower won't be finished until mid-September. HarborView plans to build a second tower late next year, aiming for a 1996 opening.

But the question remains as to how many of the early sales will stick. Condo buyers typically can pull out of a deal if a building fails to meet specifications or opens late, said Mal Sherman, a real estate consultant affiliated with Lipman Frizzell & Mitchell, who tracks sales of multi-use developments in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

In the past, condo builders could count on losing about half to two-thirds of preconstruction sales, Mr. Sherman said.

"Whether [home buyers] will step up to the plate and pay square-footage prices that are substantially beyond what you pay in the market today, for that location and for those views, is a fact we don't know yet," he said.

Boom in upscale condos

HarborView is the latest arrival in a building boom of upscale condominiums on Baltimore's waterfront and in other sections of the city that added nearly 1,000 units over the past seven years.

Luxury penthouse suites and condos priced less than $100,000 have generally sold well. But condos in the middle-range -- especially between $175,000 and $275,000 -- have consistently sold poorly.

Sales of one-bedroom units at the high-rise Harbor Court near the Inner Harbor stalled three years ago until owners dropped the price to $95,000 from the original range of $145,000 to $160,00. Slow sales forced Harbor Court to slash prices as well on two-bedroom condos, from $260,000 to $185,000.

"Until they were reduced, they did not sell," Mr. Sherman said. "Then they moved swiftly. That happened in building after building."

Since 1987, developers or lenders have held auctions or knockdown-price sales at Scarlett Place, the Colonnade, The St. James, Canton Cove, Harbor Court and Belt's Landing, he said.

Penthouse sales, meanwhile, have flourished, with buyers paying from $450,000 to $900,000, often working with architects and interior designers to create unique looks.

"They paid the going asking price because they could get an unusual unit with a lovely balcony, high ceilings and the best views," Mr. Sherman said.

At HarborView, half of the 12 penthouse units on the top four floors have sold, at prices ranging from $750,000 to $1.5 million. On the first 13 floors -- the marina level -- one-bedroom homes start at $160,000 and two-bedroom units start at $190,000. On the next 10 floors -- the skyline level -- one-bedroom homes start at $190,000, while two-bedroom units range from $250,000 to $550,000.

Higher prices

Though prices exceed those of other condo projects on the market, Mr. Hettleman argues that no one has built a HarborView which has both a marina and views of the Inner Harbor.

A brick, circular driveway leads to the tower's entrance, set 10 feet above a public promenade along the water. A grand entrance with high ceilings and windows on the harbor leads to a pool and health club on one side and a residents' lounge on the other.

To give residents a sense of privacy, HarborView has placed elevators on both sides of the building, eliminating long corridors and offering access to no more than four to six units.

HarborView offers 30 condominium styles, all with nontraditional-shaped rooms, access to balconies from almost every room, walk-in closets and whirlpool tubs. Many have combined living and dining areas, eat-in kitchens and a harbor view that can be seen from foyers as well as balconies.

Buyers can upgrade kitchen cabinets and appliances and can replace the standard carpeting with parquet wood floors or ceramic tile in the foyers.

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