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Yes, you, too, can live in the city of Baltimore Breakthroughs: As downtown residential rentals thrive, a new mansion rises above Inner Harbor.


A photo caption on the Dec. 26 editorial page erroneously suggested that Paul J. Marks is the architect studying residential possibilities for the Woman's Industrial Exchange.

The Sun regrets the error.

SEVENTEEN YEARS ago, architect Paul J. Marks became an urban pioneer. He converted an old Otterbein church (which had been a tire store) into condominiums. This year he achieved another breakthrough: He constructed the first new mansion to rise above Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

"My wife and I love living downtown. We'd never live anywhere else," Mr. Marks said about his dramatic 4,500-square-foot glass-and-white-brick home on Federal Hill's Grindall Street.

The Marks house is unique. Until now, only high-rises or townhouses have been built on the water. With its awesome views, the Marks house shows single-family luxury homes also are a possibility.

The house underscores developers' growing optimism about the downtown residential market, a niche in which professionals or retirees without children predominate.

The contrast to many outlying neighborhoods is striking. While they are emptying out, as about 1,000 residents a month move out of Baltimore, the shoreline neighborhoods and downtown have captured investors' attention.

Gentrifying Canton and Fells Point, which are rapidly growing together, are examples of this phenomenon. The year's big story, though, is the beginning of what promises to be a downtown apartment construction boom.

So many projects are on the drawing board that "about a dozen properties, totaling 1,500 units, are moving to some extent," reports Downtown Partnership's Laurie Schwartz.

Some are big undertakings, but one plan would create six apartments on top of the Woman's Industrial Exchange lunch room and shop on Charles Street.

The first new building, consisting of 151 units, is already under way. Called Redwood Towers, it is being built on top of an existing parking garage at 11 S. Eutaw St.

Another major project is slated to begin in the spring. Budgeted to cost $4.6 million, it involves the conversion of the upper floors of the old Hecht Co. department store building at Howard and Lexington streets into 170 rental units.

"Baltimore is an excellent market. The city government is very pro-business in my opinion," says David Hillman, chairman of Virginia-based Southern Management Corp., which has been aggressively buying properties here. (The company is currently in the final stages of rehabilitating an abandoned 21-story high-rise tower at Centre Street and Park Avenue.)

Hundreds of new market-rate apartments could pump new life and vitality into the once-thriving retail district. This is a trend that deserves to be enthusiastically welcomed.

Pub Date: 12/26/98

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