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New crop of condominiums

Some developers betting on luxury

Some developers betting on luxury

April 28, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

As Hagerstown's elected officials root for greater homeownership in the city, a handful of developers is sowing the seeds by building condominiums.

The Darby Condominiums are expected to open this summer with 27 units in the former Antietam Street School building.

Former Washington County resident Skip Tovornik plans to turn an apartment building at 37 S. Prospect St. into a gated community with about nine to 14 condo units.

Mike Deming of Demcore Development - who has purchased and is renovating several commercial buildings downtown - also has condo plans.

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From the city's perspective, the trend is good for renovating vacant buildings, said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development director, but also for getting more people to own their own homes downtown.

City council members often say Hagerstown has too high a percentage of renters.

The city is working on a comprehensive package of tax abatements, credits and subsidies for renters and home buyers.

Condo buyers in Hagerstown are likely "city people looking to downsize (into) small maintenance-free units," said Bill Keller, an agent with The Glocker Group's Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

"You have people that want a community within a community," he said. "That's the downtown - a lot of art, museums, businesses, the hospital. Everything's pretty much in walking distance. You're going to have a nice upscale living space."

Keller is marketing 43 S. Prospect St., a completed set of condos next to Tovornik's building.

The city's Planning Department recently offered the renovation of 43 S. Prospect St. from apartments into seven condos as an example of a good investment.

In 2002, the assessed value of the seven-unit apartment building was $143,700, according to the Planning Department.

As of January 2005, just before the building became condos, the value was $366,500, said Tim O'Rourke, the supervisor of assessments for the Maryland Department of Taxation and Assessments in Washington County.

Then, the property split into condos and legally became seven properties. Their combined assessment now is $1,187,500, state property records show.

Keller said Mesfin Ayenew of Potomac, Md., the new owner, spent more than $500,000 fixing up the property.

The prices for condos there range from $138,000 for a studio-style apartment to $250,000 for a third-floor penthouse. Keller said three of the seven units have been sold.

Prices for other local projects will vary.

A one-bedroom Darby Condominiums unit will cost $127,900. The only unit with three bedrooms and two bathrooms will cost $192,900. Most, with two bedrooms, will be priced somewhere in the middle.

Tom Plant, the president of TBS Investments in Gaithersburg, Md., which owns the property, said it had been medical offices before he bought it from Pat Paddack.

State property records show that TBS Investments paid $491,000 in November 2005 for the former school, which was built in 1900. It's at the corner of Antietam and Mulberry streets.

Plant said the building, with high ceilings, wide corridors and a solid feel, is in "wonderful shape."

After five days of advertising, TBS Investments had contracts on three units, he said.

A grand opening of a model unit is scheduled for noon today.

On South Potomac Street, Deming is planning about eight to 10 condo units above the Maryland Symphony Orchestra office. He said two-bedroom units will cost about $185,000.

He has other condos planned for the nearby Barnwood Books building.

Deming said Hagerstown's changing demographics will support condos for people who want to live and work downtown. Gas prices are high and downtown living is cheaper, he said.

Tovornik is expecting higher prices for his condos, which are known as Mount Prospect.

One bedroom will cost $195,000. A two-bedroom plan will run in the mid-$300,000 range.

He said that might seem more in line with the Washington, D.C., area, but "the industry has pushed me along" to Hagerstown, Tovornik said. "I haven't dropped my prices."

He thinks the amenities in his building justify the price - such as the marble fireplace and 11-foot ceiling in a unit on the second floor.

Tovornik, who lives in Myersville, Md., said he's on the verge of other residential and commercial projects near Mount Prospect.

He is currently working on a deal to buy the Holiday Motel and turn it into office condominiums.

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