On a peninsula where aging "shore shacks" line Middle River, a developer is proposing an upscale village of townhouses and condominiums as part of Baltimore County's ambitious waterfront revitalization.
Clark Turner, president of Harford County-based Clark Turner Cos., said he has entered into an agreement to buy a 1 1/2 -mile stretch of waterfront property in Middle River for his project, which would adjoin Hopewell Pointe, another waterfront residential project, which is to include a restaurant and a marina.
"This site, this area, has great promise," said Turner, who has developed Water's Edge along the Bush River in Harford County, where the asking prices are about $450,000 for a condominium and $650,000 for a townhouse.
"We plan to set new standards for planning and development [in Baltimore County], setting a new benchmark for prices because it will be very high-end."
Turner said the deal is contingent on his acceptance, by late this year, of Baltimore County, state and federal waterfront development restrictions. He is also examining zoning and planning issues to see how they might relate to development of the 60-acre property.
"This is great news," said Patti Zajdel, co-owner of Commodore Bar and Hall, just upriver on Old Eastern Avenue from the property Turner is considering. "What's been done in redevelopment has been good for the area, and those shore shacks have been around an awfully long time ... and they show it."
Ray Reiner, board chairman of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council, an umbrella group representing 19 neighborhood associations, said the project "will be an asset to the community."
Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said, "If Clark Turner builds there, it will be a quality product on a prime piece of real estate."
For Turner, working with the people on the county's east side will be an important element of the development.
"Once I have something on paper that I can show people, I plan to be very active in that piece of what I do," he said.
Turner is also developing a project with a hotel and 2,000 homes near the Bulle Rock golf course in Havre de Grace and is on a development team for a proposed housing and business center at the old Bainbridge Naval Training Center near Port Deposit.
The owner of the Middle River property, Daniel W. Hubers, declined to comment. Neither Turner nor Hubers would disclose the purchase price, but attorney and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos said he is part of a group whose offer of about $6.5 million was rejected.
"We appeared close to an agreement with Hubers, but he didn't accept our offer," Angelos said. "He's smart. He sat on that property until its value increased."
Officials said more than $800 million in county, state and federal funds has been spent on the eastern Baltimore County revitalization, including the Route 43 extension that will connect White Marsh with Middle River and a new business park.
Privately developed projects in the area include one with million-dollar mansions on the Holly Neck peninsula on Chesapeake Bay; WaterView, with single-family homes near Middle River's headwaters; and Hopewell Pointe.
Lockheed-Martin has proposed a tourist destination on Dark Head Cove that would include a hotel, a promenade, condominiums and shops. Three dilapidated World War II-era apartment complexes were demolished, one to make way for a 50-acre public park.
The Hubers family has owned the property on Middle River since 1906. Hubers, 86, says his grandfather cut wood for the shore shacks and built them at a time before pleasure boats and personal watercraft turned the tributary in one of Maryland's busiest.
The prospect of trendy new condos, homes and businesses sprouting along Middle River doesn't sit well with some who have rented Hubers' shore shacks for decades.
"We've known for years that Dan Hubers wanted to sell, so this latest news about a sale is like the other shoe dropping," said Ted Goloboski, who has lived in one of the properties as a renter for five years, following a family member who resided there for 35 years.
Goloboski renovated the inside and outside of his little home. He built a deck and rebuilt his pier where his 50-foot Sea Ray is moored. "It's like a little piece of paradise will be gone, but hey, I've rented for a couple thousand dollars a year. These places are from another time."
There are 26 shacks on the property, and unlike Goloboski's and a few other well-maintained houses, many have peeling paint and other signs of disrepair.
"These shacks were for the working people of Baltimore, an unspoiled place they brought their families and swam, ate crabs and enjoyed tranquillity," said Goloboski, who owns a construction company and who takes his boat to Florida for the winter months.
"In another day, this was a little bit of heaven that was unchanged by the times," he said. "But then, as Hopewell Pointe went up nearby, the serenity of the water was punctured by the sounds of the nail guns and bulldozers. Everything changes eventually, but it's still a little sad."