Federal Hill residents take a dim view of plans for high-rise apartment building They say HarborView is one tower too many

October 01, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Highlandtown, but plans to put a 15-story apartment building near the 27-story HarborView condominium complex on Key Highway have Federal Hill residents worried about the view.

An announcement of $75 million in venture capital financing for a 275-unit building on the 42-acre HarborView property is expected next week. While current zoning laws -- passed when the city approved the condominium project in the late 1980s -- allow for up to six skyscrapers on the old Bethlehem Steel shipyard site, residents are hoping developers exercise restraint.

It's difficult to overstate the distaste that South Baltimore area homeowners have for the gargantuan, beacon-like condominium tower, which opened in 1993. Only one-quarter of the building's 254 units have been sold.

"It's hard to make a tower fit in with our neighborhood," said David Marshall, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. "Nobody is going to be happy with another tower, but they have the absolute right to do it if they want."

HarborView is owned by HarborView Properties Development Corp. and Parkway Holdings Ltd., a Singapore-based conglomerate. Other Key Highway plans recently discussed by the group included a five-star hotel for business travelers.

Efforts to reach Richard A. Swirnow, the president of HarborView, were unsuccessful yesterday.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has said that HarborView, which benefited from a $2 million tax break last year, should not expect additional government help.

"They already have the foundation for a second tower just west of the existing tower," said Marshall. "We just hope that they fTC work with us in the design of it. There's a lot of different development in the area now, and the developers have asked our input. We're [determined] to keep our [unobstructed] views of the water down certain streets like Cross and Grindall and Hamburg."

Charles C. Graves III, Baltimore's director of planning, said that while current zoning allows HarborView to build additional waterfront towers, no plan would be approved without community input.

"I've already had a call from the [director of the American] Visionary Arts Museum who wanted to make sure their view corridors are preserved," Graves said. "I am assuring residents that whenever a design is conceptualized, the developer [must] get residents' input before finalizing. That's our policy."

Graves said he did not know precisely where the apartment building would be built.

"The community has never been happy with the existing [zoning] ordinance," said state Sen. George W. Della Jr., a South Baltimore Democrat. "If one can believe this new turn of events, it would certainly be nice for the developer to come back to the community and share the direction they're about to take."

Said Jack Williams, president of a community group in nearby Riverside: "As long as they don't go too high."

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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