"There's not enough demand," said Andrew Viola, vice president and regional manager for the Northern Virginia office of Bush Construction Corp., which developed 414 Water Street and is a majority owner. "There's a good quality of purchaser. There just don't seem to be enough of them."
Viola said they have reviewed prices and lowered them slightly. He said he hopes to sell out in four years.
"What we try to do is find a price point that we thought was fair for the type of product we deliver, and we're willing to wait for it, frankly," he said.
Financing projects can be difficult because lenders generally want a portion of the condos to be pre-sold before they will provide money for construction, while the Federal Housing Administration sets minimum owner-occupancy limits that range from 30 percent to 70 percent before it will back a mortgage, Viola and others said.
Liability also makes some developers leery: Should something go wrong, they face potentially hundreds of lawsuits. (HarborView, for example, was tied up in litigation over mold in one of the penthouses in the Key Highway high-rise before the lawsuit was dismissed in favor of the condo association in 2012.)
Pikesville developer Questar Properties opted for luxury apartments in its planned development of the former McCormick & Co. site on Light Street, rather than condos. CEO Stephen Gorn said he didn't think the timing was right, but a possible second tower on the site could include condos.
"We think in time the urban environment around the Inner Harbor in Baltimore will be fertile, and ultimately will be successful, for condos as the whole city environment continues its evolution," he said. "It's a timing thing. We have to see how the market evolves."
Re/Max Advantage agent Angel Stevens, who specializes in condos, said the market is strong and the listing service data doesn't always capture the full picture, because developers do not always list new units.
"I've always had a high demand for condos," said Stevens, adding that some recent condos on the market drew multiple offers.
She doesn't know why developers aren't more confident. "There's just always a need, especially for new condominiums," she said.
Yet Harbor East Management, which still is doing its research, isn't sold on the market yet. Whether it builds or not depends on sales, which haven't started, Huss said. The developer does believe, he said, that the kind of condo it wants to build — branded as part of the Four Seasons and managed by the hotel and resort operator — is without peer in Baltimore.
"We think the Four Seasons brand will certainly bring some value and some intrigue," he said. "The unfortunate piece for us is there's not much of a record for this level of residences."
The cost of the project, or the units themselves, has not been determined, he said.
The new condos could benefit from their location in Harbor East, which was a draw for Carol Daddazio and her husband, Terry Gaskill, who moved from Coolidge Corner in Boston to the Vue in Harbor East this month. They paid about $450,000 for the two-bedroom condo, helped by the sales of their previous home.
"We wanted to be in a place we could walk to restaurants or walk to the post office or walk anywhere we wanted," said Daddazio, 66, adding that the move also was prompted by a desire to be closer to their daughter and her family and not face the responsibility of a house. "It was definitely for the sake of ease. ... We think we're set up for a long time here."
If the market is strong, Harbor East might try for 80 condos at the Four Seasons, two stories more than anticipated today, but that's where the building will stop — about even with the Legg Mason tower, Huss said.
Members of the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel said Thursday that they think the building would look better taller.
"I hope that the market is really strong and you can add two more floors," said panel member Richard Burns.
"Not as much as us," Huss replied.