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Builders hope Anthem House will hit the right note for city's new apartment dwellers

Builders hope Anthem House will hit the right note for city's new apartment dwellers
Toby Bozzuto, President and CEO of The Bozzuto Group, stands next to a mural of Billie Holiday, which is painted at The Anthem House, a new apartment complex in the Locust Point neighborhood in Baltimore. (Michael Ares / Baltimore Sun)

The first tenants are moving in at Anthem House, the Locust Point apartment development that's named for the Star-Spangled Banner.

Fort McHenry, of course, is just east of this Fort Avenue building, and the upper floors overlook a panoramic harbor expanse from Fairfield to Pratt Street.

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Anthem House is a joint development by Scott Plank's War Horse Cities, Solstice Partners and the Bozzuto Group, a Greenbelt-based firm with ties to Baltimore. On a recent tour, my guide was Toby Bozzuto, 43, president and CEO of the firm founded by his father, Thomas Bozzuto Sr.

Toby Bozzuto notes that ground was broken on the $100 million Anthem House in days of uncertainty following the death of Freddie Gray. He said the companies "wanted to make a statement about our confidence in Baltimore."

A few steps into the lobby reveals a vision for this structure — and the effort to make sure this Anthem hits the right notes.

With its broad halls and interiors, Anthem strikes me as a 21st-century version of the old Baltimore apartment houses I've known — Washington Place, Homewood, Marlborough, Northway, Tudor Arms, Highfield House and Warrington.

Bozzuto said he called in some of his favorite local artists and artisans and asked for their creativity.

Muralist Jeff Huntington responded with a huge portrait of Billie Holliday in the lobby, then added Francis Scott Key and Edgar Allen Poe to the other side of the building. There's also an H.L. Mencken quote on one of the walls.

Mahan Rykiel has designed the gardens and landscaping. Clipper Mill's Gutierrez Studios produced steel room dividers that add an industrial-looking heft to the place. A graffiti muralist, MasPaz, who grew up in Washington, added vivid color and energetic design with sizable contributions.

Baltimore's Whitman Requardt did the engineering and KTGY the architecture. Rebecca Jones created lavish interiors throughout the lobby and public rooms.

Bozzuto grew up on Keswick Road in Roland Park and graduated from the Gilman School. While his home office is in Greenbelt, he resides in the Charlesmead section of North Baltimore.

He's also a book collector with a taste for the city's literary traditions. The Fitzgerald, one of his Baltimore projects on Mount Royal Avenue, is named for F. Scott Fitzgerald, who briefly lived on Park Avenue in the 1930s.

His father, Thomas Bozzuto, arrived in Baltimore in the 1970s and initially worked for the federal Department of Housing. He went on to found a firm that since 1988 has built 42,000 homes and apartments, many in the Washington metro area.

His mother, Barbara Bozzuto, is former director of the city's Office of Promotion. She directed the 1988 Tall Ships visit to Baltimore, and has been public relations director for the Pride of Baltimore.

Like their son, they also stayed here, residing in the Hollins section near Lake Roland.

"To be given the opportunity to work in my hometown is a real honor," said Toby Bozzuto. "While we acknowledge that Baltimore had a population decline over the past 30 years, we remain extremely bullish on the future of the city."

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He said Anthem House reflects the personal faith he has in Baltimore. The building has 282 rental apartments; prices start at $2,125 a month for a one-bedroom unit.

"In the first month, we leased 80 units," he said. "That was unprecedented for us as a company. We hope this an indication of the positive momentum we see in Baltimore."

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