The entrance to the budding development where Bill Ganz bought his new home is directly off Key Highway on Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Driving along a makeshift dirt road, on what seems like a typical construction site, a startling discovery awaits.
The five-story brick townhouses here do not sit on terra firma. Two long rows of houses face each other, ending at a horizon line. They, and the narrow road between them, have been built on a pier, the water below making audible lapping sounds.
Ganz moved into his unit -- one of 88 to be built on two piers -- in January. The structure's exterior of concrete and light brick, along with wrought-iron window boxes and coach-like lanterns at the entrance, present a small-town, Mediterranean ambience.
At the filigreed, steel door entrance facing south, Ganz, a 28-year-old Realtor, and his 4-year-old brindled greyhound await visitors. This first level consists of a two-car garage and storage space. A short hall ends at the staircase leading to the second level.
"This is one [house] the wolf couldn't blow over," Ganz laughed, referring to 3,100 square feet of sturdy, steel-frame construction that withstood recent gale-force winds with barely a whimper.
Calling the project "a world-class architectural marvel," Ganz purchased the house two years ago for $750,000, a price he says has more than doubled today. During its construction, he spent an additional $100,000 on upgrades that included a hot tub on the roof and an elevator accessible to all five levels.
The second level showcases what girlfriend Jennifer McCloskey calls the "wow factor." The north end features the living room with a large floor-to-ceiling picture window. The adjacent dining room boasts sliders to a balcony.
Both views, as well as the ones from the balconies on the third and fourth levels, offer a sweeping view of the Inner Harbor and city skyline. Looking down off each balcony is like peering over a ship's deck.
"We'll never have grass to cut," noted Ganz, also pointing out that exterior maintenance on the home's north side would have to be done on barges from the water.
The home is decorated with unique pieces scaled to each space. Modern furniture is combined with more traditional groupings. A charming example of this style is found in the kitchen. Here, an old-fashioned, stand-up popcorn machine sits alongside sleek granite countertops and stainless KitchenAid appliances.
A spacious bedroom and bathroom suite fill the home's third level. Going for a Caribbean-style theme, bamboo furniture is featured, along with corner palm trees, and "top down, bottom up" honeycomb-pattern window shades. Dual pulls allow for the perfect blend of privacy, and a spectacular nighttime view.
Ganz's vision of tropical retreats -- many visited on trips with his aunt and uncle -- is embodied in the fourth-floor den, referred to as the Havana Room. Decorated with leather, pub-style furniture arranged around a marble-hearth fireplace, the room is decidedly masculine with a cigar bar feel.
The fifth-floor penthouse is a room that opens outside onto a concrete roof deck wrapping three-quarters around the house.
Mile-long views and harbor breezes prompt Ganz to remark, "If you choose to live in the city, I can't see it getting any better than being on a pier."
BUYING A HOME
Ganz offers this advice for people who are having a home custom-built:
When having a house built, it helps to have a vision of the end product.
The buyer must be patient during construction. Delays are consistent and typically there will be multiple settlement dates.