In a radical departure from their past strategy for waterfront development in South Baltimore, owners of the HarborView property along Key Highway have scrapped plans to build four of six previously approved high-rise condominium towers and now intend to construct luxury townhouses and "canal homes" on most of the land instead.
The developers unveiled yesterday plans to build a $16 million, 76-unit townhouse community on land that had been reserved for the four towers, which were to rise up to 290 feet.
They also outlined plans to build 450 apartments in a two-phase, $54 million development with a four-story section and a 15-story section, and another 80 residences on existing piers.
The revised plan would put to rest a decade of wrangling between developers of the largest residential project in city history and community groups bitterly opposed to a series of high-rises along the South Baltimore shoreline.
Even though the project's owners succeeded in winning city approval in 1987, many South Baltimore residents feared the towers would block harbor views and isolate their communities from the waterfront.
Democratic state Sen. George W. Della Jr., whose district includes HarborView and the surrounding neighborhoods, said the changes sound like "a step in the right direction."
"If it includes townhouses and reduces heights, I think that eliminates a lot of the concerns the community has had," Della said. "This is great news for a change."
Under the revised plan, the complete development of the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. Key Highway shipyard would contain 855 residences -- considerably fewer than the 1,590 residences allowed in the 1987 urban-renewal plan approved by the city.
The 42-acre parcel already includes a 29-story, 249-unit condominium tower completed in 1993, a marina and a "yacht club" building containing a restaurant and meeting space.
"We see this townhouse project and midrise project as a huge give-back to the community," said Edward V. Giannasca II, vice president of HV Development & Contracting Co. "We were allowed to build up to 290 feet and now it's down to four stories" on much of the land. "We're mending fences."
The community has been very supportive of the new plans because they mean reduced density and fewer towers to block harbor views, said David Marshall, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association.
"I think everyone's behind it," he said. "When [the developers] got the zoning rights to build those towers, it was a very controversial issue. It's still a sore subject."
The townhouses will range from $295,000 to $650,000 or more, making them among the most expensive townhouses in the city. They are expected to generate $905,000 a year in city real estate taxes and $512,000 in state taxes.
The work is expected to create 348 construction jobs and 53 permanent jobs.
In a presentation yesterday to Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel, which approved the plan in concept, Giannasca said the developers changed their plans because they believe there is a stronger market in Baltimore for low- and midrise housing than for high-rise condominiums.
"Is it is radical departure? Yes. Are we excited? Yes. It's a wonderful opportunity to provide market-rate housing for the community and the city. Water is the magic. We think we've created an environment that is second to none."
Giannasca said the houses would be developed by HV Development & Contracting Co., headed by Richard Swirnow and himself. The Lessard Architectural Group of Vienna, Va., is the architect, and Harkins Builders of Silver Spring is the builder.
The timetable calls for construction of the townhouses to begin in the spring and for the first ones to be ready for occupancy by fall.
Giannasca said HV began marketing the townhouses two weeks ago and has been deluged with calls from prospective buyers. Some are from Federal Hill and the first HarborView tower, he said, while others come from farther away.
"The phones are ringing off the hook," he said. "We have 17 reservations. It's a tremendous market. We think we're hitting it at the right time."
Bearing traces of traditional townhouse architecture, the homes will come in widths of 18, 20 and 24 feet, with one- or two-car garages and four stories of living space.
One unusual feature of the townhouse community will be a 3-foot-deep freshwater "canal" that will be created on the property. It is actually a curving "water feature" that would cost $500,000 and give more of the houses water frontage.
Giannasca said the developers are working with a financial partner, Lubert-Adler, a privately held equity fund from Philadelphia, and need no funding assistance from the city.
The next phase of development would be the construction of rental apartments on top of a 1,110-car garage west of the first tower.
Giannasca said the team would like to begin work in the fall on a $24 million, four-story development with 150 apartments. After that, he said, work likely would begin on a $30 million, 15-story tower containing about 300 residences.
L-shaped in plan, that tower would be constructed where a 22-story tower had been slated to rise under the previously approved urban renewal plan.
Pub Date: 3/19/99