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The Daily Record: Bozzuto Group Takes Luxe Approach at Union Wharf

June 18, 2013

Fells Point meets Harbor East.

Geographically, that’s a stretch at Union Wharf, The Bozzuto Group’s new apartment development at Thames and Wolfe streets in Fells Point. But as the first residents of the $72 million, 281-unit project arrive this month, they are moving into units that are unusually upscale for this former working-class community, mirroring a similar transition less than a mile away on what is known as Baltimore’s Gold Coast.

It’s part of a trend in the city, one expert said Tuesday: Luxury apartments are the new hot commodity in residential real estate.

“They are leasing them as fast as they are making them available,” said Theo Harris, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty based in Canton. “And they are getting the prices. There is a big demand. For us Baltimoreans, it sounds kind of funny that they are asking those prices, but they are making them jazzy and selling the waterfront living.”

Union Wharf rentals start at $1,600 for a studio and go as high as $3,250 for a two-bedroom with a den. That is comparable to other luxury units in the area; a one-bedroom loft with a roof deck at nearby Thames Point rents for $2,129 monthly and a two-bedroom with a den rents for $2,364. At Harbor East in Spinnaker Bay, another Bozzuto development, one-bedroom units start at $2,100 per month while two-bedroom units — currently unavailable because they are fully leased, an agent said Tuesday — go for around $2,700 monthly.

With gourmet kitchens, wood floors, large bathrooms and a washer and dryer in each unit, the Union Wharf apartments are renting at a fast pace with more than 90 leases already inked, said company President Toby Bozzuto during a tour of the building that is expected to be fully completed in November. Already 40 units are move-in ready, he said, located on the fourth and fifth floor with sweeping vistas of the city’s skyline and waterfront.

“We are modeling this project after restaurants, hotels and resorts,” Bozzuto said, showing off a main lobby that underscored his point.

Open and light in earth tones, with a gas fireplace built into a wall, leather furniture, modernistic lighting, a small movie theater and a view of the development’s 150-foot infinity pool as a focal point, the entranceway to Union Wharf sets a classy tone.

With gourmet kitchens and wood floors, 40 of the project’s 281 units are move-in ready and 90 have already been leased, according to developer Toby Bozzuto.

Many details are handcrafted: Wide wooden planks — recycled from the horse stables at Rosecroft Raceway — were used intermittently as flooring; original ironwork and glass art are being installed on the main room’s ceiling, and each unit’s door numbers are crafted out of steel by a local artist.

Such details were intended to honor the past of the place, said Chris Harvey, a principal at the Baltimore firm of Hord Coplan Macht Inc. and architect of the development.

“This place could not go in Texas or L.A.,” Harvey said. “It really has Baltimore bones.”

The site once housed a canning factory, then a cement plant, before it was converted to an open parking lot for two decades. The Union Wharf construction began nearly two years ago.

As part of the project, workers had to remove 26 million pounds of concrete from the ground, crush it and re-spread it on the site where the housing is now going up. At one point, the main construction trailer was located on a barge docked in the Inner Harbor with a gangplank leading to the wharf, Harvey said.

Attached to the apartments is a 500-car garage for residents and other locals, who lease parking space. A 4,300-square-foot restaurant on the ground level is expected to open next year.

“This is a special place; there is a lot of history on this site,” said Harvey. “We wanted to make sure that this was a Baltimore project. To make it feel like it belonged in Fells Point.”