A luxury apartment complex planned for an Inner Harbor parking lot would be one of the city's tallest buildings, according to plans presented to the city yesterday.
New York developer Schulweis Realty Inc. unveiled designs for the 34-story building - 275 upscale apartments atop a 600-space garage and street-level retail space - to the Design Advisory Panel, the city's architectural reviewers.
"We're trying to maximize the spectacular water views," said Thomas L. Brodie, Schulweis' managing director. "This will be upscale. We expect professionals, empty-nesters and corporate apartments in here."
The proposed building at 300 E. Pratt St. would occupy an entire city block east of the Gallery mall. But it would become a thinner tower every several floors to reduce its massive presence on Pratt Street, Brodie said.
The development will not be subject to a Pratt Street height limit of about 10 stories because Schulweis bought and planned to build on the property before the city decided to impose controls on downtown's premier commercial street.
The building's progressively slender design shows respect for the height limit, said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm. He is not related to Thomas Brodie.
"They're honoring the set-back in front, and the architecture will pick up on the limit, but not comply with the limit," he said. "It will definitely be one of the tallest buildings downtown."
At 34 stories, the tower would have more stories than the 27-story World Trade Center and the 32-story Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel.
Schulweis had been pursuing a hotel for the former News American site but could not find lenders willing to finance another hotel in the city, Thomas Brodie said.
"It was unfinanceable," he said.
Schulweis and its equity partner, ING Real Estate, decided to join other developers in the city and build housing. Schulweis hired SLCE Architects to design the apartments.
Apartments have had a much easier time with lenders in recent years, and there are several projects proposed for downtown.
Not all the projects are likely to be built, said Robert M. Aydukovic, director of the downtown housing initiative for the Downtown Partnership, a business advocacy group.
But, he said, there is a mix of price levels, which should help those that are built to rent.
"These will be high-end luxury apartments. If all of the other projects were saying they would have marble in the bathrooms and gold water fixtures, I'd be concerned," he said.
Thomas Brodie said the project will require a tax break from the city "to generate an adequate return" to the developers. Schulweis has sought a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, from the city. An amount has not been determined or approved.
Schulweis had also sought a PILOT for the hotel.
If the project and PILOT are approved, Brodie said, construction should start in the second quarter of 2002 and take two years.
The development will be the first in the city for Schulweis, although an affiliated public company, Town & Country Trust, operates apartments in the Baltimore region.