The developer of the Ritz-Carlton Residences said it sold a huge penthouse unit for $12.6 million Wednesday, an important deal for the struggling Inner Harbor project - and one that smashes previous records for Baltimore condo sales.

The nearly 12,000-square-foot residence was originally three separate penthouses, combined by developer RXR Realty at the buyer's request. RXR declined to name the purchaser.

"It's somebody local and it's a name that you'd recognize," said Mitchell Hochberg, RXR's managing director of residential and hospitality.

The Daily Record reported on its Web site Wednesday that novelist Tom Clancy is the purchaser.

Buyers have settled on 23 of the 190 condos since the Ritz-Carlton opened a year and a half ago. The project, which is managed by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and has a concierge, indoor pool, maid service and spa, has suffered from the economic difficulties buffeting the housing market in general and luxury properties in particular. But Hochberg said he sees Wednesday's sale as a statement about "the vitality of the project and probably of the market in Baltimore."

"We think it's a signal of the value and of increased interest at the very high end of the market," he said.

The penthouse has four bedrooms, six balconies with harbor views and 6 1/2 bathrooms. Its features include a private theater and three "semi-private" elevators, and it's as big as five typical new U.S. houses.

The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, searching through the sales history on the multiple-listing service, said it could find no city condo deal that comes close. The previous high point was just under $2.5 million last year - for another Ritz-Carlton condo.

Agents said it struck them as a record price for any Baltimore house.

"In my 25 years in the business, I've never seen a sale this large for residential property," said Cindy Conklin, a partner at Yerman, Witman, Gaines & Conklin Realty, who represented the developer during pre-construction but is no longer involved in the project. "It's a wonderful thing for the city of Baltimore."

The sale set agents buzzing - and trying to guess the buyer. "I don't think there's many local people in Baltimore that have that kind of money," said Barry R. Glazer, broker at Century 21 Downtown.

Margaret Rome, an agent with Home Rome Realty in Baltimore, was amazed by both the size and price. The market isn't easy for any condo, let alone penthouse condos, she said. She's representing sellers of a penthouse unit in Inner Harbor East who bought for $750,000 but have had to drop the listing price to $499,000.

"People who move to a condo are moving from [a] big house, normally, and if they're not able to sell the house, the condo is not something they have to have right away," Rome said.

The Ritz-Carlton's units start in the mid-$600,000s. Much of the looking has been in the $900,000 to $1 million range, said Joseph Graziose, the company's senior vice president.

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