Million project across from Druid Hill Park seeks to benefit from a rebounding neighborhood where housing prices have soared.

A $40

Reservoir Hill condo complex planned

April 14, 2005|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

In a sign that Reservoir Hill's comeback is gaining momentum, a developer plans to transform two long-vacant lots into about 170 market-rate condominiums with views of Druid Hill Park and estimated prices of up to $320,000.

Baltimore developer CIMG LLC is planning an estimated $40 million project called Vistas on the Lake, two eight-story buildings in the 700 and 800 blocks of Druid Park Lake Drive across from the park.

CIMG, selected Feb. 18 by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development in competitive bidding, will buy the land from the city for $1.2 million and expects to complete the project in about two years. Preliminary plans will be presented today to the city's Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel.

"Reservoir Hill is just booming," said Catherine C. Fennell, chief development officer for CIMG, which is leading a team that includes Doracon Development and Harrison Development. "You see scaffolding everywhere. There's a huge resurgence here."

The developers expect the location - with views of Druid Park Lake and its fountain, and quick access to Interstate 83 - to lure buyers.

Plans call for one building on each lot, with 87 units in the 800 block and 83 units in the 700 block. The buildings will include two stories of parking with six stories of housing above. The design is conceptual, but the condos are likely to range from 1,100 square feet to 1,500 square feet and have one or two bedrooms, with dens.

"We're excited that these vacant parcels are going to be put back on line," said John Ruffin, executive director of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, an umbrella community group. Ruffin said the community had hoped for condos on the site and said the projected prices for the units appear to be on target.

"We've seen a rebirth of the whole neighborhood," Ruffin said. "Prices have certainly appreciated dramatically over the past couple years in all sectors of the neighborhood. It's been significant and encouraging to see the market take hold. It's been a market-driven effort."

The neighborhood was once home to wealthy merchants who lived in elegant three- and four-story Victorian brownstones. Many homes were later subdivided and fell into disrepair. The neighborhood attracted urban pioneers in the 1970s, but it continued to struggle with vacancies and decline.

As the city's real estate market heated up, the city and the community took steps to offer vacant homes for redevelopment, spurring a rebirth. Developers have overhauled old apartment buildings, homeowners and developers are renovating homes, and home prices have doubled in the past two years.

The average price for a Reservoir Hill home rose to $140,000 last year from $70,000 in 2002, according to Live Baltimore, a nonprofit that tracks title transfers by neighborhood.

Developers have bought and rehabilitated dozens of Reservoir Hill houses, selling them for $275,000 to $450,000, said Tracy Gosson, executive director of Live Baltimore.

Renovated homes on the market include a three-story townhouse with granite counters, whirlpool tubs and skylights that is listed for $575,000 and a six-bedroom detached house, built in 1876, that is listed for $475,000.

"What makes that neighborhood so great is there is some really beautiful housing and very large homes," Gosson said. "It is Bolton Hill in waiting."

Condos, which have been selling well in the city, will be a good addition to Reservoir Hill, she said.

"Diversity of product is so important because it attracts a variety of buyers," Gosson said.

Several large apartment buildings along Druid Park Lake Drive have been renovated in recent years, including the 54-unit Riviera, at Druid Park Lake Drive and Linden Avenue, in 1997 and the 47-unit Chateau, just west of the Riviera, which CIMG and Penrose Properties Inc. completed in 2001.

The Riviera and the Chateau are fully occupied, Fennell said. Both have income restrictions reserving the units for moderate-income tenants, but the Chateau also has market-rate units, with monthly rents ranging from $900 to $1,100.

The city and the community felt the neighborhood had enough rental units but needed condos, Fennell said. She said the condo market will remain strong.

"The whole Baltimore condo market has just turned around," Fennell said. "Ten years ago you couldn't give them away. Now that they're easier to sell and people have accepted them. That won't go away."

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