The symbolism of HarborView

September 15, 1993

In some ways, Baltimore's 27-story HarborView condominium complex seems as odd as its roof-top beacon that lights the night sky around the Inner Harbor. Here is one of the biggest private residential developments ever built in the city being completed at a time of continuing real estate foreclosures and economic uncertainty.

Is it a harbinger of a boom or bust?

With apartment prices ranging from $161,000 to $1.7 million, HarborView does not promise cheap living in a rowhouse city where a number of condominiums have run into trouble.

Yet its Key Highway waterfront location -- the site of an old shipyard -- offers its residents some remarkable advantages. They can park their boats virtually in front of their apartment tower. They do not have to negotiate downtown traffic to reach the interstate network. And the excitement of Inner Harbor, the city's cultural institutions and corporate offices are just minutes away.

HarborView's developers, backed by a Singapore-based holding company, hope these advantages will make the new complex attractive to buyers not only from the Baltimore metropolitan area but also from the Washington region. They want their $100 million tower, with its 1,000-car underground garage and yacht club, to be the point where the nation's capital meets Maryland's largest city.

Time will tell whether they succeed.

The ceremonial opening of HarborView has some immediate significance, however. It signals that the renewal process generated by the Inner Harbor is now moving toward South Baltimore.

The new demarcation line between that renewal is likely to be the Baltimore Museum of Industry site, which will be the end of a waterfront promenade stretching all the way to Canton. If that revitalization is successful, it could have a positive impact in rowhouse neighborhoods all around Locust Point.

While HarborView is trying to attract condominium buyers, other potent revitalization symbols are rising on the opposite shore.

The $161 million Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration will draw attention to the fact that the Inner Harbor renewal is also moving eastward.

A huge tract at the foot of Little Italy has been quietly prepared for development as a future office and apartment complex. Its marina portion ought to be ready by the year's end.

Further toward Fells Point is the AlliedSignal site, undergoing a $90 million detoxification process. The chemical giant hopes to redevelop the property as another expensive mixed-use complex.

Economic factors will determine the pace of all this redevelopment. But it's clear that many daring and optimistic projects are being undertaken in Baltimore.

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