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The Real Estate Wonk
Baltimore's residential real estate and commercial development news
As apartments boom in city, a new market reality emerges

It used to be a struggle for Baltimore leaders to get developers to believe that people would want to live in the city. Now apartment builders have embraced the idea so enthusiastically that even some of its loudest champions think they might be going too far.

More than 5,360 homes in projects with 15 or more units have been completed in Baltimore in the last five years, according to the city's Planning Department. Another 3,232 are under construction, including 948 that got underway last year. And 2,825 more have been approved, including 1,233 last year.

The Downtown Partnership is tracking about 7,000 homes for sale or rent in Federal Hill, Fells Point and downtown to be completed by 2017. The number outstrips the demand predicted in a 2012 study for the group, which forecast a market for 5,800 units through 2017.

The glut of new apartments has raised questions about whether the units will find renters, especially at the rates that owners of top-of-the-line buildings are asking.


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Annapolis apartments sell for $105 million

A New York-based firm made another investment in the Baltimore area, buying the Watergate Village rental community in Annapolis, according to a broker on the deal.

Castle Lanterra Properties paid $105 million for the 608-unit Watergate Village, located in the Eastport neighborhood, said commercial real estate firm CBRE. CBRE represented the seller, Columbia Realty Venture, an affiliate of Washington-based Bernstein Management Corp.

Castle Lanterra also closed in January on a $13.5 million deal to buy the nine-story apartment building at 222 East Saratoga Street. The 77-unit property was previously owned by RWN Development Group.

Watergate Village includes a mix of high-rise and garden-style apartments, with a pool, boat slips and seasonal water taxi passes. The 31.1-acre waterfront property is authorized for the construction of almost 700 more residences, according to CBRE.

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Leaders celebrate Harbor Point groundbreaking

A jazz band, heated tent and rows of white chairs gave the Harbor Point construction site the air of a wedding Wednesday as the project was praised as a model for turning an industrial site to new use.

The redevelopment of the 27-acre waterfront property is expected to bring roughly 1,000 apartments, 200,000 square feet of retail, 1.6 million square feet of office space and 9.5 acres of open space over the next 10 years. The development team, business leaders and officials celebrated the next step in the project, a $270 million phase that includes a 20-story tower that will be the regional headquarters for Exelon Corp.

The first floors of that building have just started to rise out of the ground, but preparation for the site dates back nearly three decades, when workers performed a $100 million environmental cleanup of the former Allied Signal chromium factory.

More recent milestones include the 2013 fight to secure $107 million in city financing for infrastructure, expected to be valued...

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U.S. Appraisers' Stores building to be sold

A Depression-era federal building where customs officials once inspected imports is scheduled to go to auction next month.

The General Services Administration said Wednesday that it plans to sell the eight-story United States Appraisers' Stores property at 103 S. Gay St., opening it for online bids in March, with site visits scheduled in March, April and May.

GSA decided to dispose of the 169,801-square-foot property in 2010 because of its projected repair needs.

The agency hopes to complete a sale by the end of September, said GSA officials, who declined to describe the cost of operating the building or the agency's target price. State land records place its assessed value at about $10.4 million.

"We expect a heavy level of interest based on the phone calls that we've received over the past few years prior to it being [a] public sale," said Maureen Steward, a GSA asset manager.

The Art Deco building, rimmed with Corinthian columns and decorated with eagles, opened in 1935 after the city's...

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City presses for State Center approval

The Baltimore Development Corp. reaffirmed support Thursday for the State Center project, planned since 2005 but cast off track by lawsuits and shaky political backing.

The BDC board voted unanimously to ratify an agreement the board approved in 2010, which set tax payment at $2.50 per square foot for 515,000-square feet of state offices. The state-owned land is currently exempt from taxes, but if the project were to move forward, development firm Ekistics LLC would have a ground lease for the parcels, making them subject to taxation. 

The agreement, which must be approved by the city's Board of Estimates to go into effect, would bring in $1.7 million in new tax revenue for the city, said BDC staffer Dan Taylor. 

“We concluded it was a classic [payment in lieu of taxes] that was very, very good for the city,” said Deborah Hunt Devan, who heads the BDC’s project committee. “Nothing has really changed. The climate is different, the costs are different but what the city gets back from it...

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Apartments planned for Della Notte site

A Baltimore development firm is proposing to build a 16-story apartment tower on the site of the former Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy

Doug Schmidt, principal at Workshop Development Inc., said the firm is looking at building a tower with roughly 240 apartments and about 7,000-square feet of retail on the ground floor. The firm, with architect Hord Coplan Macht, is slated to present designs to the city next week for the project, located at 801 Eastern Ave.

“We still have a lot of details that we're finishing up,” said Schmidt, adding that final height and number of residences remain subject to discussion.

The project would have at least one parking spot per residence inside the building, he said.

Little Italy Community Association President Giovanna Blattermann, whose family owns nearby Cafe Gia, said pedestrians en route from the Inner Harbor to Harbor East too often bypass Little Italy, turned off in part by the barren block of President Street.

“It's screaming to be...

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