Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The two Baltimores

If anybody ever doubted that there are two Baltimores, the news of the two penthouse type condominiums on the top level of Silo Point having sold for $2.6 million and $2.3 million respectively confirm it once again (BBJ article). By comparison, the median home sale price in zip code 21217 which includes Sandtown is $100,915.

The "black wings" represented as the red dots of vacancy, the "white L" is
the center and edge of the waterfront (City map)
One of the buyers of the pricey Silo Point condo is Kevin Plank's brother Scott who picks the urban option compared to Kevin who is constructing a $6.6 million 35,000 sf  mega mansion on his horse farm in northern Baltimore County which may be the largest house in Maryland.

The top listing price in Baltimore is another penthouse with almost double the Silo Point price: The condo on top of the Four Seasons tower at Harbor East: Price $12.5 million. This may seem low compared to Manhattan where the priciest condo goes for $120 million (two Rolls Royce Phantom models are included in the price).

But the matter isn't as simple as the black butterfly (wings) and the white L, a currently popular way of explaining Baltimore's discrepancieseven though those top price condos are part of the L.

The racial diversity map  shows diversity within the
"white L" (BNIA maps)
As Seema Iyer of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance pointed out to me when I used the butterfly analogy based on some maps that suggest such an image: the “white L” is more diverse then that name implies. There are heavy concentrations of Asians and Hispanics within the so called "white L. Additionally, Seema Iyer points out, there are are a good number of neighborhoods in the City that are  so well integrated that no one race has a majority. She names Greater Charles Village, Downtown/SetonHill, Patterson Park North/East, Brooklyn Curtis Bay and Washington Village/Pigtown.

The latter is probably the most inspiring news in a society that keeps self segregating long after red-lining, blockbusting and racially discriminating covenants.

Silo Point is an interesting story and by no means a "long hanging fruit" for developer Pat Turner who took a large risk in constructing it long before Under Armour made it big at the Tide Point facility and the old soap factory was still the center piece of Bill Struever's vision of a "digital harbor".



Living in the glass bowl: Penthouse at Silo
Point (photo: Philipsen)
Silo Point, designed by Parameter Architects (Chris Pfaeffle), is one of the most creative adaptive re-use projects in Baltimore and includes an innovative arrangement of preservation, new construction in which townhouse structures sit on the roof of grain silos and a glass tower springs up on the side. The property is surrounded by small Locust Point worker homes and railroad yards and sidings with the water in view from the upper floors.
The Silo Point penthouse bathroom (photo: Philipsen)

The 7.5 acres complex has 226 units total and a large internal garage as well as several restaurant. It had to weather the financial crisis  and endure slow sales contributing to the financial woes that forced Turner out of his next even more ambitious endeavor: Westport. One may see it as an act of irony among Baltimore's power players that a Plank bought out Westport from Turner and has now bought the last remaining unit at Silo Point.

Westport, as envisioned, would have done little little to reduce the imbalance of the two Baltimores, except for the neighboring historic Westport community for which Turner had planned some community benefits. Plank's Port Covington project, by contrast, committed to citywide investments as part of the recently completed TIF arrangement.
Silo Point: Luxury and silos

It is time that community empowerment and wealth creation happens in Baltimore's most disenfranchised communities, those of the black butterfly. The unrest of 2015 has created some momentum from the West Baltimore Innovation Village to a slew of workforce development and start-up initiatives concentrated in east and west Baltimore. This must be carried forth and have the support of the corporations in the so called white L.
Sandtown last week (Photo: Philipsen)
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

corrected for the initial incorrect statement that Kevin Plank had bought the penthouse. It is his brother Scott Plank.