Baltimore's richest digs

January 15, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

In New York, Donald Trump is asking $100,000 a month for a 6,000-square-foot bite of the Big Apple.

And if he gets his asking price, the tycoon's penthouse will be the highest priced rental in New York City, ever.

And it's not even furnished.

Baltimore's highest-priced residential property, a $10,000-a-month penthouse at HarborView Condominiums, is obviously rentally inferior.

But at least it's furnished.

One hundred thousand dollars a month. "Somebody would really have to be stupid to spend that kind of money. And anyone who has that kind of money must not be stupid," says Carolynne Shumate, a Baltimore Realtor at O'Conor Piper & Flynn.

Trump's place and the HarborView actually have a bit in common. They both have pretentiously named Italian marble. They both have amazing views. And we're assuming Trump's penthouse also has a bidet.

But HarborView has something Trump's place doesn't: Tim Allen stayed there.

But that doesn't mean HarborView is snottily exclusive. It welcomes everyone ... even self-described transients.

"I'm a transient -- my roommate pays the rent," says Denise Smith. The unemployed 29-year-old lives in a two-bedroom, second-floor apartment. "You've got the best view of the city here. You're looking back at the city and you don't have to be in it. It's very private -- you don't have to see anyone."

Yet, despite all of its charms, the HarborView penthouse remains on a much lower rental rung than New York's premier property.

Maybe it's because it's about 2,000 square feet smaller (at 3,975 square feet vs. 6,000). Maybe it's because it has half as many bathrooms (3.5 vs. eight). Maybe it's because it's not owned by a man who goes through peroxided prima donnas like cashmere tissue.

It's probably because Baltimore's high-end rental business is much smaller and quieter than New York's, according to Linda Fredeking, sales manager for BridgeStreet Accommodations, a Baltimore company specializing in short-term leases.

The small percentage of high-end rentals in Baltimore reflects Baltimore's lifestyle, Fredeking says. "You've got New York and L.A., where there are more transient people and condos are a way of life," she says. "Condos are second homes in Baltimore."

Fredeking says Baltimoreans are more likely to buy property if they're going to invest that much money. And as far as high-end rentals do go, HarborView is astronomical in Baltimore terms. Your average luxury condo or apartment ranges from $2,000 to $6,000. (Actually, it's astronomical in most cities' terms: In Beverly Hills, Calif., and in London, rents top out at $35,000, and even in Hong Kong, luxury rents generally run $25,000 to $50,000.)

Baltimore's luxury condos and apartments are in the Inner Harbor -- which includes HarborView, the Towers at Harbor Court Condominiums and Scarlett Place Condominiums -- and Guilford, home to the St. James, the Warrington and the Colonnade.

And when you compare the average high-end rents to the median rentals in Baltimore and surrounding counties, the difference is even more marked: $529 in Baltimore County; $680 in Howard County; $484 in Carroll; and $616 in Anne Arundel.

Given HarborView's stature in the Baltimore rental market, you'd think whoever was fortunate enough to possess such an extravagant anomaly would bask in thelush environment.

But the traveling, unidentified owner of this penthouse is rarely home. The owner allows HarborView to rent it out in his absence. Apparently, many HarborView residents similarly abandon their glam accommodations.

"They're busy and they're out," says HarborView vice president Bosley Tawney. "They're not here much anyway."

Most people would never leave the building if their digs were anything like HarborView. Its occupancy rate is 93 percent. The penthouse is currently unoccupied, but never is empty for long -- movie directors, producers and corporate bigwigs tend to rent it, Tawney says. It's their chance to soak in the master bathroom's whirlpool bath with a half-naked Balinese statue at their feet.

But the luxury doesn't stop with half-naked statues. Also in the master bathroom, you can grab the bidet-side telephone to consult with your stockbroker.

In the 10-by-18 kitchen with black granite countertops and black Jenn-Air appliances, catch "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on the wide-screen TV as you saute whatever it is rich people saute.

The Bloomingdale's furnishings are elegant if not terribly innovative; ivory couches with rose pillows, mirrored alcoves, clay statues and wood floors.

And don't worry about any of these charms being stolen.

HarborView is serious about security, Tawney says.

Residents can't use the elevator without a coded strip. HarborView security knows when residents get home, and when they leave, and they can watch you in the elevator. The cameras stop when residents get inside, though. This isn't a Sharon Stone movie.

And then, of course, there are the 25-story views, which can be appropriately appreciated from any of the four balconies.

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