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SINGLE IN THE CITY

The Baltimore Sun

Standing at one of the 16 floor-to-ceiling windows inside his 20th-floor luxury condo, Christian S. Johansson brings to mind a popular movie scene -- you know, the one about being king of the world.

Indeed, Johansson's lofty perch at the Harbor Court in downtown Baltimore is certainly fit for a king. Or at the very least, a successful 35-year-old bachelor who enjoys living in a residential building attached to a four-star hotel, complete with restaurants, a concierge and doorman, gym and more.

"As a single man, this is an ideal location," says Johansson, who relocated from Boston to Baltimore in 2003, purchasing the two-bedroom condo for upward of a half-million dollars.

"When I saw this place, what impressed me immediately was the view," says Johansson, who is president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. "When people visit, that's one of the first things they'll often comment on."

The panorama from Johansson's living room takes in the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards and the Washington Monument -- all places that are helping to lure people, especially singles, to Baltimore.

Attracted by the city's lively culture, strong neighborhoods and relative affordability, young, single professionals are driving the real estate market in Baltimore, making up some 40 percent of the city's recent homebuyers, according to a recent industry survey.

Johansson, who typically walks to work and on weekends strolls to nearby Cross Street Market, says urban conveniences are part of the appeal.

"I have a nice lifestyle here," says Johansson. "If I want to order a steak at 3 in the morning from the hotel's room service, I can. I work out right downstairs. I can walk to all the attractions. ... It's all at my doorstep."

While uncluttered and somewhat minimalist, Johansson's bachelor pad has all the requisite "guy" perks: a sleek flat-screen TV, piped in music courtesy of a Bose sound system and a well-stocked liquor cabinet.

In a nod to his Swedish heritage, he decorated the space in a clean, modern style. On a geometric-styled glass coffee table are two prominently placed photos of Johansson's African-American mom and Swedish dad. And gracing one wall is a colorful piece of framed art -- a mixed media of the Statue of Liberty -- created by pop artist Peter Max.

"It's a great place to have people over," says Johansson, who often entertains. "For the 4th of July, we watch the fireworks over the Inner Harbor."

Johansson appears to be part of a trend that doesn't seem to be diminishing any time soon.

"We often have singles come in to explore living options," says Anna Custer, executive director of the LIVE Baltimore Home Center, whose team promotes city living by offering home tours, real estate information and more. "We commonly hear questions about community personality, walkability and our nightlife."

According to a 2007 National Association of Realtors study that profiled a sampling of Baltimore home buyers and sellers, some 32 percent of homes sold were to single women; single males accounted for about 9 percent.

The study also revealed that 52 percent of buyers were between 25 and 34 years old; and that 77 percent of respondents reported having no children in the home under age 18.

The numbers are not a surprise to Patti Neumann and Lorraine Jacobs, both single fortysomething professionals who live in Federal Hill. While both women say they'd love to share their lives and homes with that special someone, for now, they are content to live with their beloved pooches.

"I am divorced, and I've built a life for myself that really makes me happy," says Jacobs, a partner with Chase Street Properties, which manages corporate apartments, many downtown. "For a long time, I wondered if I'd have the gumption to do all the things I wanted to do -- like leave the suburbs and buy this condo."

Jacobs lives on the seventh floor of the Harborview Towers -- in a two-bedroom, two-bath corner apartment with a view that includes the harbor and the Baltimore Aquarium. Among its many amenities, the building has a doorman, indoor and outdoor pools and covered parking.

"Most people walk in and say 'Wow' about the view," she says. "And they say it's very comfortable."

Neumann, who moved into a renovated Federal Hill duplex about six years ago, needed a place that could double as an office for her tourism marketing business, yet be a relaxing sanctuary in the off hours.

To that end, her duplex -- two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths -- is decorated in what Neumann dubs a "modern funky" style, complete with antiques for a "relaxing, spacious feel."

The entrepreneur also has a rooftop deck with what she describes as a 360-degree view of downtown. She and her Wheaton terrier, Bogart, often hang out there, especially now that the weather has warmed.

"With spring here, I can see the south Baltimore rooftops and the cherry blossoms blooming from my home office window," she says.

A home that allows for entertaining seems to be important for many singles of both sexes. But that's only part of the equation for single buyers, says Dawn Litrenta, a Realtor with Long & Foster in Timonium.

"Many singles want no maintenance, they want to move in ASAP without having to do anything major in terms of renovations, and they want convenient parking options and walkable conveniences such as a nearby grocery store or subway."

There are also differences among the sexes, Litrenta notes.

"Single male clients tend to like exposed brick, wet bars, a rooftop deck and someplace they can put the big-screen TV. ... Single women clients may lean towards homes with spacious bathrooms and large walk-in closets with space for clothes. That's often a huge consideration."

Dave Repko, 44, a financial adviser whose condo/townhouse is on the North Shore of Canton, said one of his house-hunting requirements, in 2003, was that he wanted to see other singles.

"I was sold on this place the day I came with my [real estate] agent and I saw two, then three girls jogging by," says Repko, who grew up in Rosedale. "At my last place, I didn't have that much in common with my neighbors; most were families."

Repko paid about $600,000 for his 2,400-square-foot waterfront home, which rises four stories up and has two bedrooms, a media room and an office. To decorate the space, he worked with Whitehead & Appel Interior Design, the same team behind the eclectic furniture store Nouveau Contemporary Goods in Belvedere Square.

"When a single man or woman matures and decorates a home, it's all about having good taste," says Steven Appel, whose business partner is Lee Whitehead. "You need good linen, you need china, not paper cups. You need art, and good solid pieces that have texture, color, style."

Appel, who is married, works with both men and women, but typically has to work more closely with bachelors.

"I have to get them to realize that when they get their own places and mature, out goes the couch they found on the side of the road at [age] 24," he says.

Appel also advises singles to lose the college posters, stuffed animals and wacky beer or other signs that scream "arrested development."

"You can keep the memories, but lose furniture or anything that doesn't say you're an adult. One day you just might be ready to share your space with someone else."

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