The luxury segment of Baltimore’s housing market hasn’t made some very good news lately. Developers for waterfront luxury condominiums report slow sales and have adjusted their plans to accommodate the slowdown.
Most notably, the developers of the 4 Seasons Hotel in Baltimore’s East Harbor announced that they will delay residential construction until at least next year. They intend to complete the condominium, but on a delayed timetable. “I’m still very bullish on the project” says Michael S. Beatty, president of H&S Properties Development Corp. The plan is to continue with the hotel portion of the planned 44 story project, and with a 24 story office tower. But the residential portion – a full half of the original project – will be delayed. Revised plans now show that the building will be 21 stories, with the 256 room hotel on floors 1-18, with a preview gallery on one of the remaining floors and sales offices. If the original plan had been built, it would have been the tallest building in the city. But developers have decided to build the Four Seasons in two phases due to the slowdown in the national economy. Construction is now at the 17th floor.
There seems to be a general wait and see attitude among Baltimore’s developers for luxury housing. “We don’t see any reason to think condos will never thrive in the future of downtown,” says J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. He believes that long term, demand for apartments will increase as the economy improves, as Baltimore does not have a glut of condominiums in the proportion that other major cities have.
As for the luxury market, developers are in business to make money, and high end residences will be a slow market until the mortgage restrictions ease and qualified buyers are again able to obtain financing. The neighboring Ritz Carlton has only 13 closings on 113 contracts – and luxury buyers are taking note. However, for the discerning buyer who is looking for an existing Baltimore condo, the ray of sunshine is that these will hold their value as they are in demand and not overbuilt.
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