Will they sell?

Hope: The city hasn't taken to condos in the past, but Ritz Residences are designed to break the jinx.

March 11, 2001|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

Edward V. Giannasca II is a New York guy who has been calling Baltimore home for the past 12 years.

When he was hired to run the firm developing the Ritz-Carlton Inner Harbor condominiums and hotel, one of his first actions was changing some of the players on his team.

"When I got involved with the project, the majority of the team was an out-of-town team," he said.

"I'm here for some years now, and I want to keep the money in town. There is some tremendous talent in this town. I completely revamped the whole team," said Giannasca, president and chief executive officer of L. I. Square Corp., the developer of the 97-unit luxury project on Key Highway next to Federal Hill that is scheduled to open in spring 2003.

So he brought in Paul Marks -- a Federal Hill resident -- of Marks, Thomas & Associates Inc. as the project architect, and he hired famed interior designer Rita St. Clair to do furnishing plans. And Giannasca approached O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA's Cindy Conklin, known for her expertise in Federal Hill and condominium sales, to help sell the Ritz-Carlton organization on the Inner Harbor location.

"They [L.I. Square Corp.] wanted to make sure that the project fit the needs of the community rather than the community having to respond to what product was offered," Conklin said. "It was really important. They put their time and their money where their mouth was. They asked for advice, [and] when given, they took it. And that has never happened here before."

L. I. Square Corp. hopes the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton will become the first Inner Harbor condominium project that won't see its bubble burst after an initial flurry of reservations.

30 reservations

According to Giannasca, 30 reservations, secured with a refundable $25,000 deposit and representing $40 million in sales, have been recorded since the developers began taking appointments from 120 prospective buyers in mid-February.

Prices for the condominiums begin at $475,000 for a one-bedroom unit and go to nearly $3 million for a three-bedroom penthouse with rooftop terrace. Square footage for those units will start at 1,250 and go to 6,000 square feet.

Developers hope to begin turning those reservations into contracts by the first week in April after developers get back their final condominium documents.

The Inner Harbor project will be the ninth managed by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. of Atlanta. There are two in Washington (Georgetown and downtown), two in Manhattan (Central Park South and Wall Street), two in Miami (Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove) and one each in Boston and Sarasota, Fla., where the project sold out in just three weeks.

The Inner Harbor project is the first low-rise, waterfront location for a Ritz condominium project. Of the 97 condominiums, 24 are penthouse units and 10 others are duplexes.

`Something for everyone'

"That is what makes the building so unique, because we really do have something for everyone," Giannasca said of the project, which faces the harbor on three sides. "There are different shapes and different turns with different views, and the variety has helped the offer tremendously."

Like the other Ritz condominiums, the Inner Harbor project will offer just about every imaginable luxury.

Fifteen private elevators from the underground garage will take residents directly to their private vestibule entrances.

Housekeeping and room service personnel will enter through service corridors connecting the condominiums to the hotel.

There will be a separate health club and pool.

The kitchens will feature European cabinets and Viking and Sub-Zero appliances.

Many master bathrooms, furnished in marble, will have his and her vanities, and there will be showers with full-body sprays.

"What we have said is that this certainly will be the best of the best across the board in product," Giannasca said. "It is selections as opposed to upgrades."

For all of this lavishness, what is different from other Ritz condominium projects is that Baltimore's entry is starting off cheap by Ritz standards.

Prices for the downtown Washington Ritz at 22nd and M streets range from $750,000 to $5.65 million. You'll pay from $654,000 to $6.25 million for a Ritz condo on New York's Central Park South, while condos at the Ritz-Carlton Towers at Boston Commons cost from $440,000 to $7.1 million.

The real Baltimore value comes in the fact that the Inner Harbor units -- from smallest to largest -- exceed the square footage of comparable units in Washington, New York and Boston.

The smallest unit in Baltimore will have 1,250 square feet, while in Washington, the smallest unit is 1,096 square feet; Central Park South comes in at 807, and Boston Commons' smallest unit is 636 square feet.

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