Construction on the Central Avenue bridge between Harbor East and Harbor Point continues adjacent to the Living Classrooms campus. The building under construction in the background will contain a Whole Foods and apartments.
Construction on the Central Avenue bridge between Harbor East and Harbor Point continues adjacent to the Living Classrooms campus. The building under construction in the background will contain a Whole Foods and apartments. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Harbor Point, downtown's new 27-acre neighborhood, has reached a pair of milestones: The first tenants at the 1405 Point apartments recently moved in, and the new community now has a permanent entry street.

Those factors and others make the ambitious project about 30 percent finished. It'll be another six or eight years before Harbor Point is completed.

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Located between the better known locales of Harbor East and Fells Point, this neck of land is the focus of intense development energy.

"Look to the cranes and you'll see what is happening in Baltimore," said Christopher Seiler, spokesman for Beatty Development, the firm building Harbor Point. "People don't seem to know where we are and what we do. We are hoping to change all that."

Jacques Kelly: Pieces of Baltimore past often surface in 'ghost' signs

Painted signs on brick walls fade, but their messages still communicate. When the rusty sheet metal siding came off an East Baltimore building last month, a lesson in neighborhood history unfolded.

What's called Harbor Point today was once the heavy industrial side of Fells Point. Block and Philpot streets were home to the Lacy Foundry, which made street lamp poles and manhole covers, and to other plants that turned out paint and shellac. Allied Signal had a chemical plant here, and DuPont made industrial-grade alcohol. There were a number of lumber yards too.

Back then, this former industrial brownfield was not a place where you took a casual walk. But when Harbor Point is finished, there will be more than 9 acres of parkland, including a large greensward at the harbor edge. One attractive park is already completed.

Harbor Point is elevated 14 to 28 feet over the level of the harbor. It will have 3,300 parking spaces, many on the ground, under the elevated platform where offices and apartments stand.

It took a $107 million city subsidy to get the project moving.

This neighborhood of reclaimed industrial land is gaining recognition as it gets knitted into the matrix of city streets. A new section of Point Street was tied into Thames Street a few days ago — after a lengthy period of looking like a construction zone.

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Located behind the Mount Olivet Cemetery on Font Hill Avenue, the 52-acre campus of the SEED School of Maryland is home to students in grades six to 12 who arrive each Sunday evening from communities stretching from Salisbury to Frederick.

A bridge over a finger of the harbor is taking longer to complete than expected. The unfinished span has taken shape over the past few months. When completed, it will extend Central Avenue into Harbor Point and will carry two lanes of vehicle traffic in each direction. There also will be a bike lane and another for pedestrians.

The bridge will join the two waterfront neighborhoods — Harbor Point and Harbor East.

Also rising this spring is Liberty Harbor East, a nearby apartment complex slated to house a new Whole Foods store.

Harbor Point began in 2010 when a new structure went up at 1300 Thames St. It now houses the city's Morgan Stanley offices. It was followed by the Exelon Building on Point Street, the anchor of the project.

Now, Harbor Point's first building dedicated exclusively to rental apartments has opened; monthly rents start at $1,450 for a studio apartment. Next on the construction agenda is an office building and a Hilton Canopy hotel named Wills Wharf.

"We feel like we're building a piece of Baltimore that will be here for years to come," said Cathie Bryant, a Beatty vice president.

As Harbor Point becomes a reality, the developer wants it to gain exposure as a mixed-use community. A series of live events is being planned. An artificial beach, known as Sandlot, opened last summer and will continue in 2018. It took multiple dump trucks to create this nod to Ocean City.

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"Sandlot is a relaxed environment; the kind of place where you go at the end of the week to decompress," Seiler said. "When you sit there on a beach chair, under an umbrella, and look over your shoulder at the rest of Harbor Point, the progress is astonishing."

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