Harborview Plans Rentals

June 15, 1994|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun Staff Writer

Bending to a weak real estate market but determined to push ahead with a proposed $600 million waterfront village on Key Highway, developers of HarborView will rent luxury apartments rather than sell condominiums in the high-rise tower they plan to start in a year.

Proceeding with a rental tower -- which developers always have planned to include somewhere among six proposed towers on the 42 acres -- in no way means developers have veered from their original vision of an upscale, resort-style community, said HarborView officials.

"Going to rentals is a recognition of economic realities of the market place," said Jeffrey Heng, property director for Parkway Holdings Ltd., a partner in the development. "It would be foolish of us to ignore it."

Richard A. Swirnow, president of partner HarborView Properties Development Co., said the decision actually signals the team's commitment to the project.

"Now is the time to go ahead," Mr. Swirnow said. "We have the demand. The market has proven to us people like HarborView and want to live in HarborView."

But sales at the the signature, 27-story first tower at HarborView have been disappointing since it opened in September. Developers originally said that they had sales contracts or reservations on 100 units, but many prospective buyers backed out, and only 40 sales have been finalized or are pending, Mr. Swirnow acknowledged. Only eight sales are recorded in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Some buyers took early occupancy in the tower while awaiting final financing and others are waiting for their condominiums to be finished, Mr. Swirnow said.

Many of the would-be buyers at the first tower who backed out after its opening was delayed have indicated they would be willing to rent, Mr. Swirnow said.

He also announced yesterday a new lease-with-an-option-to-buy program, which will be available in about 40 units in the existing tower.

Mr. Swirnow and officials with Parkway Holdings, who flew in from Singapore yesterday, will unveil plans for the 275-unit, $50 million tower and a 250-space "boatel" today at the development in South Baltimore.

Besides economic conditions, HarborView has been hurt by perceptions that all condominiums eventually sell for less at auction in Baltimore.

While lenders forced other upscale condominiums built downtown since the mid-1980s to lower sales prices or sell units at auction, HarborView faces no similar pressures, Mr. Swirnow said. The financial backing of Parkway, general partner and half-owner, will allow developers to ride out weak markets and sell at prices from $161,000 to $1.7 million, he said.

Though HarborView condo prices remain among the highest in the city, Mr. Swirnow called them fair, considering amenities such as location on a marina and views from nearly every room.

Mr. Heng said he believed HarborView would help reverse a trend of residents moving away from the city, as he has begun to see with a similar condominium project Parkway is building in Melbourne, Australia.

"I keep hearing that people in Baltimore are resistant to the inner city," Mr. Heng said. "They haven't experienced good-quality apartment living."

The L-shaped apartment building will be constructed atop an underground garage adjacent to the first tower.

Though prior city approval allows for a 22-story tower, Mr. Swirnow said developers are considering stopping at 15 stories to appease area residents who opposed the first tower's height.

But already, some of those South Baltimore residents said they would try to stop the second tower and fight any high-rise development beyond that, lobbying instead for low- and mid-rise housing.

"The community remains disturbed over the prospect of a second high-rise tower and will fight vigorously any building," said David L. Hankey of the South Baltimore Key Highway Task Force.

Apartments will range in size from 750 square feet for a one-bedroom unit to about 1,200 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. A limited number of larger three-bedroom units will be available. Rents will range from $1,100 to $3,000 a month.

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