Three acres of waterfront land across from Henderson's Wharf in Fells Point soon will become home to hundreds of new apartment and townhouse dwellers in a development planned for completion in fall 2005.
The project, being developed by the Hanover Company of Houston, is to include 10 waterfront townhouses, 252 apartments and 52 boat slips on land that until recently was owned by the Belts Corp., a warehousing and distribution company.
"We just love the site," said John Garibaldi, development partner for the Hanover Company. "It's one of the last developable parcels in Fells Point. We build urban projects all over the country. Our biggest criteria for choosing a site is we want one with a great pedestrian environment." The high-end townhouses, fronting on the promenade, will sell for well over $500,000 each and will have about 3,100 square feet of space with lots of glass and water views, Garibaldi said. The eight-story apartment building will feature units with 10-foot ceilings, wood floors, slate floors in the kitchen and bathroom, cherry cabinets and black on black appliances, he said.
Shared amenities at the 951 Fell St. project will include a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a pool, a theater with tiered seating and a 100-inch screen, a demonstration kitchen, a coffee bar and e-mail center, he said.
"The Baltimore housing market has progressed to the point where it is attracting the attention of national builders," said Andrew B. Frank, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp. "And this is another example of market rate housing projects moving forward on the water without public financial assistance. It's beautiful. We need to find more opportunity for projects like this."
Even as the project moves forward, density issues are a recurring concern for Fells Point's residents. "We wish it weren't so large," said Carolyn Boitnott, coordinator of the Waterfront Coalition. "We have been worried when you add up all the different projects. But they're developing within the envelope allowed by the Fells Point Urban Renewal Plan. What's particularly troublesome is that next door there's another parcel of about the same size developing with about the same number of units."
That project, called Union Wharf, will rise just north on the old Arundel Concrete plant site, Boitnott said.
"It's the traffic congestion more than anything else that's the problem," Boitnott said. "You're talking 400 to 500 more cars just in that little side of Fells Point. I think the units will be nice. It's just over-development of the area that's troubling."
Acknowledging those concerns, Frank said it's critical that the right balance be struck. "We think that density is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it's done within a framework of good urban design and planning," he said.
Apartment rentals at the Hanover Company project will start at about $1,500, Garibaldi said. Both one- and two-bedroom units will be available, some with studies. Apartments will range from about 750 square feet to 1,750 square feet. Developers expect to draw most of their tenants from employees and researchers at Johns Hopkins and its affiliates. "There's a national trend of moving back into urban areas," said Garibaldi. "We think there's a pent-up demand in most areas of the country for urban housing."
The Hanover Company has undertaken similar projects in Denver, Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles, Garibaldi said. His company has built more than $1 billion in projects in the past five years and a total of more than 25,000 units since its founding in 1981. Design Collective of Baltimore is the architectural firm working on the project.
The new apartments and townhouses will provide views down the channel to the Francis Scott Key Bridge, said Robert F. Freeze Jr., president of Commercial Real Estate Investments LLC in Timonium, who put together the land deal over a period of about a year and a half.
"It will be the premier apartment-rental property on the water," said Freeze. "They're one of the premier builders in the country for apartments. They gravitate toward the high-priced, glitzy areas so they can in turn get the higher rents."
At the same time, in nearby Harbor East, construction is under way on 316 luxury apartments on the waterfront near the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront in a development called Spinnaker Bay.
"We really think Baltimore is a great town," Garibaldi said. "It's a market we're very interested in. We'd like to do more here."