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Westport developer lands $40M apartment project

Daily Record
September 23, 2009

Patrick Turner, the South Baltimore developer who wants to create a second Inner Harbor along the Patapsco River’s Middle Branch, has signed a deal for the first building on the property.

Landex Development, a Linthicum-based builder of rental housing, said it will build a $40 million, 200-unit, high-end apartment complex on the waterfront at Westport, Turner’s $1.2 billion mixed-use development project.

Construction is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010, and finish about 18 months later, pending approvals of Landex’s design.

“It’s timely, just as we’re coming out of the recession,” Turner said in an interview at the site Wednesday. “This is just the beginning.”

Westport, like Turner’s Silo Point condominium conversion, is backed by Washington-based private equity firm The Carlisle Group, and financed in part by loans from Citigroup. Turner is parceling out lots on the 50-acre and selling them to individual builders for each component of the development.

Neither Turner nor Landex officials would say how much the 1-acre lot for the apartment building sold for.

The first phase of the project also includes 77 for-sale town homes to be built adjacent to the apartments and a 23-story office building on the western edge of the site, with a walkway connecting it to the Westport light rail stop.

Turner said several builders had expressed interest in both of these additional components, and that he had one tenant interested in most of the 300,000 square feet of space in the office building, although he declined to name names.

Landex’s commitment comes as a relief to city officials, who in December approved $160 million in city-generated tax increment bonds to pay for new roads, sidewalks and sewer lines on the site.

Turner said he plans to start building those in November, along with a $600,000 environmental effort to extend Westport’s 4,000-foot shoreline toward the Hanover Street Bridge, creating a barrier of wetlands meant to filter pollution out of the water.

“I’m encouraged,” said City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who voted to approve the city bonds. “If you look at the plan for Westport, it’s visionary. … There’s definitely a risk, but you take a calculated risk based on the best info we have available. I’m encouraged by the prospect to create jobs, to build market rate homes, to attract new Baltimoreans. To have this level of investment, especially in this economy, is exciting.”

The Westport plan also calls for making the nearby Gwynns Falls Trail into a runner’s and cyclist’s promenade along the water in front of Turner’s project.

All this, in addition to environmental cleanup efforts on the site of a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. substation that was torn down early this year, is part of an effort by Turner to achieve LEED-Platinum certification for the site, a new environmental design standard applied to neighborhoods and developments that reuse and remediate old industrial land.

Westport is located near the confluence of Interstate 95 and Maryland 295, as well as the light rail station, which Turner says makes it ideal for the expected influx of commuters working at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.

Also in December, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown designated Westport a “BRAC zone,” making the area eligible for part of up to $150 million in state grants meant to make improvements that would attract military families locating from other parts of the country to high-density, transit-oriented areas in and around Baltimore.

Peter Siegel, CEO of Landex, said Turner’s cleanup efforts are directly related to the marketing of his apartment complex, which he called “high-end rental for urban professionals.”

Landex has not selected an architect or determined price points for the units, but the company, which is run by Siegel and his mother, Judy, has renovated historic properties as rental housing in the city before. Most recently, the company was responsible for the redevelopment of Broadway Overlook, a housing project across the street from the Johns Hopkins Hospital that remade a century-old medical facility.

“We’re targeting individuals who want high-end housing, but who also want to partake in the walking trails, the environment around them,” he said.

Although Siegel added that he is looking at the Westport project with a “holistic approach,” he said his company probably would not bid on the town homes portion of it, because Landex has no experience developing for-sale housing.

“We don’t see any abnormal risk in Westport. We think it’s a viable project,” he said. “We wouldn’t get into a project this long-term if we didn’t think it was a great opportunity.”


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